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

Older drivers adapt their thinking to improve road hazard detection

September 26, 2017
A recent study finds that older drivers showed adaptive responses according to the amount of traffic in a driving scene when identifying road hazards. Although younger drivers are faster and more accurate at identifying driving ...

80 percent of activity tracker users stick with the devices for at least six months

September 26, 2017
Use of activity trackers, such as wearable devices and smartphone apps, is on the rise, and a new study shows that 80 percent of users stuck with the device for at least six months. Though the gadgets may help motivate users ...

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Exercise can make cells healthier, promoting longer life, study finds

September 22, 2017
Whether it's running, walking, cycling, swimming or rowing, it's been well-known since ancient times that doing some form of aerobic exercise is essential to good health and well-being. You can lose weight, sleep better, ...

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.