Scientists Say They've Discovered a Sixth Basic Taste: Fat

Researchers at Purdue University say they’ve found evidence that there’s a sixth basic taste: fat.
Medium rare grilled Beef steak with herb butter on fork on dark background

Medium rare grilled Beef steak with herb butter on fork on dark background

Photo by: Lisovskaya Natalia ©(c) Lisovskaya Natalia

Lisovskaya Natalia, (c) Lisovskaya Natalia

First, there were four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Then scientists said they’d uncovered a fifth: umami, the savory flavor of, say, truffles, meat and anchovies, summoned by monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Now researchers at Purdue University say they’ve found evidence that there’s a sixth basic taste: fat.

Fat — the longest of the three fatty acids you can find in a mouthful of steak or a dribble of olive oil — “is likely another one of the basic tastes. I think we have pretty clear evidence for this," Purdue professor of nutrition science Richard Mattes, the new study’s lead author, told the Washington Post.

The researchers contend that, because the taste of fat is discernable and distinct, producing a sensation that is unlike other basic tastes, it is its own basic taste. And while, in isolation, it’s not the most-pleasant taste (Mattes describes it as “very harsh”), in combination with other tastes it could dramatically improve the flavor of foods, the same way other basic tastes, like sweet, sour and salty, do.

It’s like finding a new primary color and using it to paint a new sort of masterpiece.

"Our understanding of primary colors, of vision, has allowed us to use that for creating art, for improving vision and for a wide array of everyday needs," Mattes told the Post. "The better we understand our sense of taste, the better we’re be able to improve the taste of our food."

So let’s all roll out the kitchen welcome mat for fat, our newly discovered basic taste. (Welcome, fat.)

Photo courtesy of iStock

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