- NEW YORK - New research sheds light on why we tend to choose double-cheese
pizza and fries over broccoli and bran cereal.
- We choose fatty foods primarily because
of their taste, texture and smell, explains chief researcher Dr. Susan
S. Schiffman, of the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical
School in Durham, N.C.
- Reporting in the journal Current Directions
in Psychological Science, Schiffman and colleagues discuss what is currently
known about the sensations that occur when we put fatty foods into our
mouths, also known as orosensory perceptions.
- Consumption of excess fat is linked to
a variety of medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Thus, understanding what it is about fat that makes us eat and crave it
may help find ways to reduce fat consumption and improve overall health,
the research team notes.
- "The orosensory properties responsible
for fat perception are just beginning to be explored. Fat perception appears
to involve taste, smell and texture cues," Schiffman and colleagues
- After culling available studies on orosensory
perception of fat, the investigators found that fats and fatty acids seem
to activate taste cells in the tongue, throat and upper third of the esophagus,
which, in turn, send pleasurable signals to the brain.
- Fatty foods also have a wide range of
textures, many of which people find enjoyable. For example, shakes are
creamy and bacon is crispy.
- And the team report that the pleasing
aromas of high-fat meals send messages to the brain that help enhance satiety.
- Studies suggest advancing age is accompanied
by a loss in sensory perception of foods, thus elderly people may eat higher
levels of fat to compensate for these losses.
- Research on the orosensory perceptions
of fat will also help find fat substitutes that reduce the fat content
in food while preserving its taste and texture.
- Examples of such substitutes include
carbohydrate-based fat replacers, such as modified food starches, which
are thickening agents that provide texture, and protein-based fat replacers,
such as egg-whites, which create a creaminess sensation on the tongue.
- Fat-based fat replacers have the same
taste and texture of fat, but are lower in calories. An example is Olestra,
which is not absorbed by the body and is therefore calorie-free.
- "A wide variety of fat replacements
that mimic the texture and taste of fat have recently been introduced into
the food supply. Further research is required, however, to determine whether
consumption of low-fat foods with sensory properties similar to those of
high-fat foods reduces or delays chronic disease," researchers report.