Mechanisms and effects of “fat taste” in humans



Evidence supporting a “taste” cue from fat in the oral cavity continues to accrue. The proposed stimuli for fat taste, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), are released from food through hydrolytic rancidity and lipase activity derived from foods or saliva. NEFA must then be released from the food matrix, negotiate the aqueous environment to reach taste cell surfaces, and interact with receptors such as CD36 and GPR120 or diffuse across cell membranes to initiate a taste signal. Knowledge of these processes in non-gustatory tissues should inform understanding of taste responses to NEFA. Additionally, downstream effects of oral triglyceride exposure have been observed in numerous studies. Data specific to effects of NEFA versus triglyceride are scarce, but modified sham feeding trials with triglyceride document cephalic phase responses including elevations in serum lipids and insulin as well as potential, but debated, effects on gut peptides, appetite, and thermogenesis. In this review, we highlight the mechanisms by which NEFA migrate to and interact with taste cells, and then we examine physiological responses to oral fat exposure. © 2014 BioFactors, 40(3):313–326, 2014