Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter... Fat?

In my post, 'Eat Your Vegetables', many studies have shown evidence that eating vegetables may offer protection from various kinds of cancer. But why is it so difficult to get most kids (and adults) to eat vegetables? Why is it so difficult to train our tongue to crave for veggies but so easy to like the taste of french fries, cookies, and other fat-filled delicious food?

A new study may have the answer - Our tongue naturally craves fatty foods!
Scientists have speculated that the tongue may have a receptor designed to detect fat, but this study is the first to pinpoint one, according to Besnard and his colleagues. The receptor, a protein called CD36, is already known to exist in many tissues and is involved in fat storage, among other jobs; it is also goes by the name of fatty acid transporter, or FAT.

Rats and mice, not to mention many humans, have a natural preference for fatty food, and rats have already been shown to have CD36 proteins in their taste buds.

To see whether CD36 might be the tongue's fat detector, Besnard and his colleagues studied rats and mice that were either normal or had the gene for CD36 "knocked out," inactivating the protein.

They found that while the genetically normal animals naturally opted for fattier fare when given the choice, the CD36-deficient mice had no such preference. And when the researchers put fatty acids on the tongues of the normal animals, this alone triggered a release of fat-processing substances from the digestive organs. Again, the same was not true of mice lacking CD36 activity.

It's possible, he speculated, that the receptor's effects -- encouraging a preference for fat and launching a quick release of digestive substances -- conferred an evolutionary advantage when food was scarce. In modern times of plenty, however, this may be a disadvantage for the waistline. [Reuters Nov. 1, 2005]
If proven to be true, a successful diet may be as simple as inactivating these receptors on the tongue and maybe implanting vegetable-loving receptors.
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