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Poor 'Fat-Tasters' May Tend to Be Heavier
Date:6/24/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- The creaminess of fat-rich foods such as ice cream and salad dressing appeal to many, but new evidence indicates that some people can actually "taste" the fat lurking in rich foods and that those who can't may end up eating more of those foods.

In a series of studies presented at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting this week, scientists said research increasingly supports the notion that fat and fatty acids can be tasted, though they're primarily detected through smell and texture. Those who can't taste the fat have a genetic variant in the way they process food, researchers said, possibly leading them to crave fat subconsciously.

"Those more sensitive to the fat content were better at controlling their weight," said Kathleen L. Keller, a research associate at New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. "We think these people were protected from obesity because of their ability to detect small changes [in fat content]."

Keller and her colleagues studied 317 healthy black adults, identifying a common variant in the CD36 gene that was linked to self-reported preferences for added fats such as butters, oils and spreads. The same variant was also found to be linked with a preference for fat in fluid dairy samples in a smaller group of children.

Keller said it was important to confine the study sample to one ethnic group to limit possible gene variations. Her team asked participants about their normal diets and how oily or creamy they perceived salad dressings with fat content ranging from 5 percent to 55 percent.

About 21 percent of the group had what the researchers called the "at-risk" genotype, reporting a fondness for fatty foods and perceiving the dressings to be creamier than other groups, she said.

"It's an evolving science," said Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a spokeswom
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