A new study shows that humans may be able to taste carbohydrates.
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA — A new study by scientists at Deakin University has revealed the possibility of a seventh taste: carbohydrates. Researchers from Deakin’s Centre of Advanced Sensory Science (CASS) found that two carbohydrates, maltodextrin and oligofructose, were perceivable to the human palate. 

Carbohydrates have long been thought to be invisible to taste receptors.

“It is typically sugar, with its hedonically pleasing sweet taste, that is the most sought-after carbohydrate,” said Russell Keast, professor at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Science at Deakin University. “But our research has shown that there is a perceivable taste quality elicited by other carbohydrates independent of sweet taste.” 

The two carbohydrates in question, maltodextrin and oligofructose, are found in bread, pasta and rice. After Julia Low, Ph.D., determined that these carbohydrates could be sensed in the mouth, CASS researchers took the research a step further to see whether taste sensitivity to these carbohydrates affected people’s consumption of starchy foods. 

The study followed 34 adults and found correlations between a person’s taste sensitivity to these carbohydrates, their intake of carbohydrates, the amount of energy they ate and their waist measurements. 

“Those who were most sensitive to the carbohydrate taste ate more of these foods and had a larger waist,” Dr. Low said. 

Mr. Keast said the research was important as chronic illness such as obesity continues to rise and require better understanding of how diet impacts health.

“Increased energy intake, in particular greater intakes of energy-dense foods, is thought to be one of the major contributors to the global rise of overweight and obesity,” he said. “Carbohydrates represent a major source of energy in our diet.”

The research was published in the Journal of Nutrition and comes two years after Mr. Keast’s research team named fat as the sixth taste. Despite the impact of carbohydrate taste found in this study, it is just the first step in much more research to be done. 

“What (this study) could mean is that individuals who are more sensitive to the ‘taste’ of carbohydrate also have some form of subconscious accelerator that increases carbohydrate or starchy food consumption,” Mr. Keast said. “But we need to do much more research to identify the reason why.”