People on high fat diets become less sensitive to the taste of fat, which could lead to an overtly high energy intake and obesity, an Australian study has found.

Conducted by the University of Deakin and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that a person’s ability to taste fat was influenced by their diet rather than genetics, Food Navigator reported on 25 May.

According to lead researcher Russell Keast, director of Deakin’s Centre for Advanced Sensory Science, there was a preconception that the genes a person was born with affected their appetite for fat, but the study had proven otherwise.

In the eight-week study, 44 pairs of adult twins were fed a low and high fat diet, with one twin receiving less than 20% of their daily energy from fat while the other received more than 35% of daily energy from fat and was encouraged to eat dairy, meat and oils.

Despite the different fat intakes, both diets included the same amount of daily kilojoules of energy.

The participants were tested at the start, middle and end of the study and were asked to taste three different liquids and identify the one that contained a fatty acid, with those unable to do so given a larger concentration of fatty acid until a difference was noted.

The study discovered that by the middle and end tests, the twins eating a low fat diet were able to identify lower concentrations of fatty acids than their siblings.

“People who have a lower sensitivity to the fat taste end up eating far more kilojoules from fat because they need more to feel satiated. That’s why it’s vitally important we’re careful with what we’re eating, otherwise we will get in a bad cycle of our bodies becoming accustomed to high levels of fat and requiring high levels of fat to become satisfied. That can then lead to obesity,” said Keast.