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Chem Senses. 2013 Feb;38(2):119-27. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjs095. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

Evidence for presence of nonesterified fatty acids as potential gustatory signaling molecules in humans.

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Department of Nutrition Science, Purdue University, Stone Hall, 700W State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Gustatory fatty acid signaling termed "fatty acid taste" is initiated when nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) bind to putative fat receptors on taste receptor cells. However, the source and quantity of NEFA in the oral cavity of humans are unresolved. Dietary fat is comprised predominantly of triacylglycerol, and human lingual lipase is of questionable functionality. The objective of this study was to characterize the species of NEFA in saliva and quantify their individual concentrations during oral processing of high-fat foods. Participants chewed fixed amounts of almonds, coconut, walnuts, almond butter, and olive oil (stimuli that vary in physical state and fatty acid composition) for 1 min at the rate of 1 bite/s and expectorated. The salivary NEFA from the expectorant were quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Palmitic, oleic, linoleic, and stearic acids were the 4 predominant salivary NEFA, reflecting their concentrations in the foods tested. Their significantly increased concentrations ranged from 20 to 60 ┬ÁM. Previous animal electrophysiological studies suggest that these NEFA concentrations are sufficient to depolarize taste receptor cells. These data indicate NEFA concentrations likely to be sufficient to initiate gustatory signaling are present in the human oral cavity when masticating high-fat foods.

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