A Sixth Taste?

Posted by on Friday, September 10, 2010 17:49 - 0 Comments

Brenda Andrade, a psychology student at the University of Idaho, had the opportunity to experience basic and applied research from beginning to end under the direction of Dr. Rick Mattes, Professor in Foods and Nutrition.  Andrade was also mentored by graduate student Bhushan Kulkarni, who Andrade said, “exemplified the meaning of being a mentor.”  Andrade feels prepared to conduct research in the future.  She is planning to apply for graduate school in the area of clinical health psychology.

There are currently five widely accepted taste primaries, including sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). The purpose of Andrade’s preliminary study was to determine the availability of an effective stimulus in foods for a sixth human primary taste – fatty.  Although previous studies have provided promising evidence that fatty may be another primary taste in humans, a question remains about the stimulus source.  Taste receptors in the oral cavity purportedly bind free fatty acids (FFAs).  However, lipids found in food are primarily in triacylglycerol form.  This study aimed to detect FFAs after human oral processing of almonds as a test food that is high in fat but strongly compartmentalized.  Qualitative and quantitative analyses of FFAs were conducted for three in vivo and three in vitro samples.  Linoleic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acid concentrations, likely to be sufficient to depolarize taste receptor cells, were found after mechanical processing and expectoration of almonds.  Findings for this study support fatty as a primary taste.  Documentation of free fatty acid taste in humans holds many commercial and health opportunities.

For more information about this research, contact Dr. Rick Mattes, mattes@purdue.edu

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