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Your Nose Knows Fat, Study Shows

Released: 29-Jan-2014 10:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Bruce Halpern, professor emeritus of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University and expert in sensory systems -- primarily smell in humans, comments on a new study confirming his findings that your nose can smell the fat content in food way before the morsel makes it to your mouth.

Halpern says:

“Fats, often in a form called fatty acids, are frequently found in foods. These fatty acids are important parts of vegetable oils, such as soybean, peanut, corn, sunflower, and safflower oil. For a long time it was believed that fats could not be tasted or smelled. Instead, it was believe that fats only affected the texture of foods.

“Early in this century (2007 to 2009), researchers at Purdue University (Richard D. Mattes and his colleagues) found that, in fact, fats could be tasted, and probably smelled.

“Around the same time, my colleagues and I reported that pure fatty acids, the same ones that are major components of vegetable oils, could be easily smelled. This smelling occurred not only for fatty acids that are normally liquid at room temperature (linoleic and oleic fatty acids) but also for a fatty acid that is a solid at room temperature, like stearic fatty acid, which is found in many foods.

“Because not many of the molecules of a solid will move into the air (compared to a liquid), the finding that a solid fatty acid could be smelled meant that we were very sensitive to the smell of fatty acids. These findings fit with previous observations that linoleic, oleic, and stearic fatty acids have important effects on the flavor of cooked foods.”

Media Note: A copy of the new research can be found here,

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