Not so long ago the ability to taste and identify fats was a survival skill. Certain fats and oils are essential for energy and for the production of hormones. Finding these fats as a hunter / gatherer was a matter of life and death.
Now that we have supermarkets stuffed with bacon, shortening laced cookies, and beef and chicken meat loaded with corn oil, is seems that that this skill has become obsolete. Or maybe not? Maybe the skill to have trained taste buds that know the difference between good and bad fats is the new Darwinian survival trait.
Scientific research 1 shows that 4 out of 5 people have problems tasting fat. They have less sensitive taste for certain fats, and not only that: these individuals consumed 42% more fat than the study subjects who had a high taste-sensitivity to fats (hyper-sensitive). In addition, the highly sensitive group had a significantly lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and there were no obese individuals in that group, whereas one in six of the poor fat tasters were overweight or obese.
Less taste means more fat consumption
The core question in this study, done in Australia in 2010 with 54 young adults, was whether people have the same taste intensity for fats, and if any difference impacts the kind and quantity of fats that we eat. The answer is that the ability to taste fat varies greatly from person to person. And “yes” it makes a huge difference in what we eat and how much we eat. The researchers also concluded that the more fat you eat, the less you will taste it.
The study found that some of us are perfectly capable of tasting the difference between two very common fats: safflower oil and canola oil. The scientists tested if we can taste these oils and taste the difference in amounts as low as 0.5% in foods. And some of us do. The better you are at this, the higher the probability that you’re a skinny person. The two tested fats are lead actors in our obesity problem:
The first tested oil is Oleic Fatty Acid (C18:1). This oily fat is a monounsaturated omega 9, and the name is derived from olive oil. This is the fat that gives butter and bacon their creamy taste. Oleic acid 2 can be found in:
The healthy properties of olive oil (the main oil in the Mediterranean diet) and the other listed C18:1 oils is that they replace Linoleic acid (C18:2, see next bullet point) and thus replace the highly inflammatory omega-6 in Linoleic acid. Also, olive oil has plant phenols, which have health benefits all by themselves, and canola oil has up to 10% omega-3; the anti-inflammatory antidote to omega-6.
The second tested oil, Linoleic Acid (C18:2) is a polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid. Although essential in very small quantities, Linoleic acid (LA) is abundant (=overdose) and is found in most common vegetable oils. Linoleic acid is the majority fat in the following oils:
Grape Seed Oil
Poppy Seed Oil
Linoleic acid in large quantities is highly inflammatory, and a major contributor to inflammation diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and arthritis. It used to be consumed in moderation, but with the government subsidies for corn production, it’s now in everything, because everything is made with it (beef, chicken, shortening, and almost all processed foods). The best use for linoleic acid is as bio diesel.
How to lose weight with healthy fats and oils?
The lesson from this fat taste study is that most of us have a poor taste differentiation between the neutral oleic fatty acid (olive and canola oil) and the bad linoleic fatty acid in safflower and corn oil. The solution is simple: Go to your kitchen cabinet and see what you got. It’s a no-brainer to replace the poisonous safflower, sunflower, and corn oil with olive oil and canola oil. It will make a huge difference for healthy fat consumption, and chances are high that you won’t taste the difference.
Oral sensitivity to fatty acids, food consumption and BMI in human subjects by Jessica E. Stewart et al. British Journal of Nutrition 2010.