Trending Topics in Fats

Everyone has to eat, right? Therefore food and nutrition are often highly relevant, personal and trending topics. Here are some of the latest developments in the fats category.

The questionable “healthfulness” of saturated fats remains contentious. Results from a recent systematic review and meta-analysis sparked some debate, concluding that there wasn’t “clearly supportive evidence for current cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of saturated fats”.

While some agree, many reputable scientists in the field argue that the study had deep methodological flaws that resulted in an inaccurate analysis that could damage the public’s health. Leading health organizations (ones that considered all available empirical evidence) continue to promote limiting saturated fat intake for optimal health:

While arguments may remain over the amount and types of fat we should be eating, some also argue that fat could be classified as the sixth human “taste”. While it has long been thought that our ability to sense fat relates more to “mouthfeel” – or the creamy texture offered by fat to foods – research published in the journal Flavour proposes fat could one day stand alone as a primary taste.

In order to be labeled as a taste, specific criteria must be met:

  • having a distinct class of stimuli
  • having receptors that can change the stimuli’s chemistry into an electrical signal
  • neurotransmission of the electrical signal to the brain
  • physiological effects seen after taste bud activation, and
  • perceptual distinction from other taste qualities

The paper argues that fat meets all of the criteria, with the possible exception of the last bullet, which may be slightly less defined for fat than for sugar or salt.

The researchers say it “makes sense” that fat would be a “taste”, especially since the other two macronutrients – carbohydrates and proteins – are detected through taste (sweet and umami, respectively). The authors also point out that different levels of fat taste sensitivity in a population may also have implications for food consumption (i.e., those who are less sensitive to the taste may over-consume foods high in fat) and thus the prevalence of obesity and related chronic diseases.

Whatever the next media story or research article may be, we think that good fats are always on trend.