Now we totally understand our bacon obsession. According to scientists, the sixth basic taste, which we’ve overlooked all these years, is fat. While we hinted at this new basic taste earlier this year, researchers at Purdue University have now confirmed that along with salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami, the sixth basic taste is oleogustus, a.k.a. fat. Although it doesn’t roll of the tongue, oleogustus is comprised of fatty acids, which adds appeal to foods like butter.
Just to confirm, scientists are not calling oleogustus a “taste bud.” Science long ago scrapped the taste bud map, and the idea that the tongue dedicates certain regions to different taste receptors is now considered a scientific myth.
"Most of the fat we eat is in the form of triglycerides, which are molecules comprised of three fatty acids," said Richard D. Mattes, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. "Triglycerides often impart appealing textures to foods, like creaminess. However, triglycerides are not a taste stimulus. Fatty acids that are cleaved off the triglyceride in the food or during chewing in the mouth stimulate the sensation of fat."
In the study, scientists asked participants to group certain solutions together based on taste. Participants had no problem grouping salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami tastes, but also designated the “fatty” flavors in a separate unmarked group, without prompting.
"Fatty taste itself is not pleasant… but low concentrations of fatty acids in food may add to their appeal just like unpleasant bitter chemicals can enhance the pleasantness of foods like chocolate, coffee and wine," said Mattes.