Science Says Fat is the Sixth Taste, Because Duh, It's Delicious
There are five basic tastes that our tongues are sensitive to: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami. They're what our bodies respond to when we take a bite of the perfect cheeseburger (or any cheeseburger, really), or a burrito, or a cupcake. But now, researchers have found there's a sixth basic taste, and -- not to knock science or anything -- it's a pretty obvious one.
A team at Purdue University found that our taste buds' reaction to fat is comparable to that of the five basic tastes. Really, anyone who has ever eaten bacon could tell you this, but now science has confirmed it!
For the study, the Washington Post reports, participants were given solutions that featured the basic tastes, plus "fatty." In addition to having taste receptors for the fatty taste, participants were also able to distinguish it from the other basic tastes. According to the Post, the three fatty acids that make up fat are what give it that "mouth feel and creaminess we associate with it," but the research deals only with one of the fatty acids: the longest, and the one that creates the unique flavor profile for fat.
Fat on its own unfortunately does not taste like bacon (in fact, it's pretty gross), but the lead researcher of the study, Richard Mattes, says it functions like the bitter taste -- on its own, it's something you would not wish upon your worst enemy, but it tastes great in things like IPAs and chocolate.
The researchers have proposed calling the fatty taste "oleogustus," which we're just going to go ahead and give a hard pass to. They also believe it'll make an impact on what you're eating; fat may soon be used to enhance the taste of foods in the way sodium, sugar, and MSG are. Yes, we will gladly accept some fries with fat sprinkled on top, thank you.