Conventionally, experts have thought that the tongue detects five tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami taste for protein rich foods. But tests on rodents showed a receptor on the tongue tastes fat - it is not known if it is the same for humans. The work by French researchers from the University of Burgundy appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The fact that the tongue harbors receptors for fatty acids could shed new light on appetite control and obesity, according to the researchers, led by Philippe Besnard of the University of Bourgogne.
Scientists have speculated that the tongue may have a receptor designed to detect fat, but this study is the first to pinpoint one. The receptor, a protein called CD36, is already known to exist in many tissues and is involved in fat storage, among other jobs; it is also goes by the name of fatty acid transporter, or FAT, according to Reuters.
Investigator Philippe Besnard and his team believe the CD36 receptors that they found were important for evolutionary reasons - to ensure animals ate a high energy diet when foods were scarce, BBC News reports.
But in the current Western climate, where food is in abundance and about 40% of the energy we consume comes from fat, this may be a disadvantage for the waistline if the same receptor is present in humans. A.M.