06/23/2011 06:00 pm ET Updated Aug 23, 2011

Can't Taste Fat? You May Have Increased Obesity Risk

Can't taste the fat in your food? That could be leading you to eat extra fat in your diet, thereby increasing your risk of obesity, according to new research.

There is a theory that people are generally able to detect fat and fatty acids in their food through taste (in addition to smell and texture). But new research presented this week at the annual meeting of the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists suggests that people who don't have this ability -- and also lack access to healthy food -- are more likely to eat a higher amount of fat than people who can taste fat in their food. The research was first reported today (June 23) by HealthDay.

That's because these people, who are called "non-tasters," have genetic variations that may make them process food differently from others, experts said.

"Non-tasters" aren't able to tell just how much fat is in their food, leading them to crave fat because they think they have a deficiency in it, said Kathleen L. Keller, of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. Keller conducted a study presented at the meeting on the link between genetic variations and people's perceptions of fat in food.

"A genetic variation in taste affects food and beverage sensations, which affects food and beverage preference and intake," Keller, who is also an associate professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement.

And of course, what people choose to eat affects their risk of becoming obese, she said.