British Journal of Nutrition

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British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 104:145-152 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Authors 2010

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Behaviour, Appetite, and Obesity

Oral sensitivity to fatty acids, food consumption and BMI in human subjects

Jessica E. Stewarta1, Christine Feinle-Bisseta2a3, Matthew Goldinga4, Conor Delahuntya5, Peter M. Cliftona3a6 and Russell S. J. Keasta1 c1

a1 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia
a2 Discipline of Medicine, Royal Adelaide Hospital, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
a3 Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Nutritional Physiology, Interventions and Outcomes, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
a4 Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
a5 CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, Riverside Corporate Park, North Ryde, NSW, Australia
a6 Baker IDI, Heart and Diabetes Institution, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, Australia
Article author query
stewart je [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
feinle-bisset c [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
golding m [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
delahunty c [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
clifton pm [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
keast rsj [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


Fatty acids are the chemical moieties that are thought to stimulate oral nutrient sensors, which detect the fat content of foods. In animals, oral hypersensitivity to fatty acids is associated with decreased fat intake and body weight. The aims of the present study were to investigate oral fatty acid sensitivity, food selection and BMI in human subjects. The study included two parts; study 1 established in thirty-one subjects (29 (sem 1·4) years, 22·8 (sem 0·5) kg/m2) taste thresholds using 3-AFC (3-Alternate Forced Choice Methodology) for oleic, linoleic and lauric acids, and quantified oral lipase activity. During study 2, fifty-four subjects (20 (sem 0·3) years, 21·5 (sem 0·4) kg/m2) were screened for oral fatty acid sensitivity using oleic acid (1·4 mm), and they were defined as hypo- or hypersensitive via triplicate triangle tests. Habitual energy and macronutrient intakes were quantified from 2 d diet records, and BMI was calculated from height and weight. Subjects also completed a fat ranking task using custard containing varying amounts (0, 2, 6 and 10 %) of fat. Study 1 reported median lipase activity as 2 μmol fatty acids/min per l, and detection thresholds for oleic, linoleic and lauric acids were 2·2 (sem 0·1), 1·5 (sem 0·1) and 2·6 (sem 0·3) mm. Study 2 identified twelve hypersensitive subjects, and hypersensitivity was associated with lower energy and fat intakes, lower BMI (P < 0·05) and an increased ability to rank custards based on fat content (P < 0·05). Sensitivity to oleic acid was correlated to performance in the fat ranking task (r 0·4, P < 0·05). These data suggest that oral fatty acid hypersensitivity is associated with lower energy and fat intakes and BMI, and it may serve as a factor that influences fat consumption in human subjects.

(Received September 16 2009)

(Revised January 13 2010)

(Accepted January 14 2010)

(Online publication March 03 2010)

Key Words:Fatty acids; Oral nutrient detection; Body composition; Fat consumption; Taste sensitivity


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Russell Keast, fax +61 3 9244 6017, email


Abbreviations: MSG, monosodium glutamate