New research questions how fat influences flavor perception

July 19, 2012

A joint study carried out by The University of Nottingham and the multinational food company Unilever has found for the first time that fat in food can reduce activity in several areas of the brain which are responsible for processing taste, aroma and reward.

The research, now available in the Springer journal Chemosensory Perception, provides the with better understanding of how in the future it might be able to make healthier, less products without negatively affecting their overall taste and enjoyment. Unveiled in 2010, Unilever's Plan sets out its ambition to help hundreds of millions of people improve their diet around the world within a decade.

This fascinating three-year study investigated how the brains of a group of participants in their 20s would respond to changes in the of four different fruit emulsions they tasted while under an . All four samples were of the same thickness and sweetness, but one contained flavour with no fat, while the other three contained fat with different flavour release properties.

The research found that the areas of the participants' brains which are responsible for the perception of flavour — such as the somatosensory cortices and the anterior, mid & posterior insula — were significantly more activated when the non-fatty sample was tested compared to the fatty emulsions despite having the same flavour perception. It is important to note that increased activation in these areas does not necessarily result in increased perception of flavour or reward.

Dr Joanne Hort, Associate Professor in Sensory Science at The University of Nottingham said: "This is the first brain study to assess the effect of fat on the processing of flavour perception and it raises questions as to why fat emulsions suppress the cortical response in brain areas linked to the processing of flavour and reward. It also remains to be determined what the implications of this suppressive effect are on feelings of hunger, satiety and reward."

Unilever food scientist Johanneke Busch, based at the company's Research & Development laboratories in Vlaardingen, Netherlands added: "There is more to people's enjoyment of food than the product's flavour — like its mouthfeel, its texture and whether it satisfies hunger, so this is a very important building block for us to better understand how to innovate and manufacture healthier which people want to buy."

Explore further: How the smell of food affects how much you eat

More information: Eldeghaidy S et al (2012). Does fat alter the cortical response to flavour? is published in Chemosensory Perception; 10.1007/s12078-012-9130-z

Related Stories

How the smell of food affects how much you eat

March 20, 2012
Bite size depends on the familiarly and texture of food. Smaller bite sizes are taken for foods which need more chewing and smaller bite sizes are often linked to a sensation of feeling fuller sooner. New research published ...

Can our genes be making us fat?

March 22, 2012
While high-fat foods are thought to be of universal appeal, there is actually a lot of variation in the extent to which people like and consume fat. A new study in the March issue of the Journal of Food Science, published ...

Recommended for you

Moderate coffee drinking 'more likely to benefit health than to harm it', say experts

November 22, 2017
Drinking coffee is "more likely to benefit health than to harm it" for a range of health outcomes, say researchers in The BMJ today.

When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access ...

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.