Fat’s the question - Understanding olfactory fat perception

Excessive consumption of dietary fat is considered a major contributing factor to the development of obesity and related comorbidities. Yet, preference for fatty foods appears to be a universal human trait and their overconsumption is exacerbated by the pleasurable sensory characteristics of fat.

The alluring flavour of fat arises from a synergy between gustation, somatosensation and olfaction, and although the individual and relative contributions of each of these systems have not yet been clarified, olfaction is considered to play a crucial role in this.

In this project we aim to determine whether humans are able to perceive and discriminate fat content from different food matrices, and how this translates into eating behavior (liking, food choices and intake). In addition, we aim to

identify the volatile aroma compounds as well as neural networks responsible for this (by means of GC/MS, fMRI), and explore differences between orthonasal (via the nose, relevant for anticipation) and retronasal (via the mouth, crucial for flavor perception during consumption) perception. Importantly, by understanding the cognitive, neural and volatile-chemical origins of olfactory fat-discrimination, it will be possible to create new opportunities to support energy reduction and sensory appeal for (un)healthy foods in the future.