Taste Perceptions

Recent studies show that taste perception may have an even greater impact on our appetite than we may think. Our sensitivity to fatty acids in food can influence how much of that food is consumed, before it is digested to make an impact on the body, physically or psychologically. Based on evolution, it is probable that the ability to perceive the presence of fat through sensory channels offered an advantage to our ancestors. Of all three macronutrients, fat provides more energy than either carbohydrates or proteins, although carbs do provide a quick burst of energy. Taking this into account, it is not improbable that genetics have an influence on our food preferences.

A study showed that subjects who were more sensitive to fatty acids in food, had lower fat and total energy intake. This is supported by another study which stated that subjects who were less sensitive to fatty acids in food were more likely to consume greater amounts of fatty foods, and to have higher BMI's. A different study suggested that a subject’s sensitivity to perceived tastes, such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors, may also influence their body weight. The subjects with above average perception of these flavors, tended to have larger increases in body mass, waist circumference, and hemoglobin A1c over a five-year follow up period. This same group also reported favorite foods including strawberries, sweets, salted pretzels, milk chocolate, mayonnaise, and sausage. There are numerous variations in genes associated with taste receptors making some people more sensitive to certain flavors than others. These variations may be the cause of different preferences in food between people. A study showed that subjects with lower sensitivity to a flavor may eat more because the taste does not register as easily, while someone with high sensitivity may avoid foods they are sensitive to.