Humans can smell the fat in food

smelling-food

New research reveals humans can use the sense of smell to detect dietary fat in food. As food smell almost always is detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that signals whether a food contains fat. Innovative methods using odor to make low-fat foods more palatable could someday aid public health efforts to reduce dietary fat intake.

A new study has revealed that human beings can use the sense of smell to detect dietary fat in food. As food smell is almost always detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that signals whether a food item contains fat.

“The human sense of smell is far better at guiding us through our everyday lives than we give it credit for,” said senior author Johan Lundstrom, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Monell Center. “That we have the ability to detect and discriminate minute differences in the fat content of our food suggests that this ability must have had considerable evolutionary importance.”

While previous research had determined that humans could use the sense of smell to detect high levels of pure fat in the form of fatty acids, it was not known whether it was possible to detect fat in a more realistic setting, such as food.

In the current study, the researchers asked if they could detect and differentiate the amount of fat in a commonly consumed food product — milk.

It was found that participants could use the sense of smell to discriminate different levels of fat in the milk. They can smell high levels of fat.

As food smell almost always is detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that signals whether a food contains fat.

 

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