Fat discrimination: A phenotype with potential implications for studying fat intake behaviors and obesity

Lisa C.H. Liang, Johannah Sakimura, Daniel May, Cameron Breen, Elissa Driggin, Beverly J. Tepper, Wendy K. Chung, Kathleen L. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Variations in fat preference and intake across humans are poorly understood in part because of difficulties in studying this behavior. The objective of this study was to develop a simple procedure to assess fat discrimination, the ability to accurately perceive differences in the fat content of foods, and assess the associations between this phenotype and fat ingestive behaviors and adiposity. African-American adults (n= 317) were tested for fat discrimination using 7 forced choice same/different tests with Italian salad dressings that ranged in fat-by-weight content from 5 to 55%. Performance on this procedure was determined by tallying the number of trials in which a participant correctly identified the pair of samples as "same" or "different" across all test pairs (ranging from 1 to 7). Individuals who received the lowest scores on this task (≤ 3 out of 7 correct) were classified as fat non-discriminators (n= 33) and those who received the highest scores (7 out of 7 correct) were classified as fat discriminators (n= 59). These 2 groups were compared for the primary outcome variables: reported food intake, preferences, and adiposity. After adjusting for BMI, sex, age, and dietary restraint and disinhibition, fat non-discriminators reported greater consumption of both added fats and reduced fat foods (p < 0.05 for both). Fat non-discriminators also had greater abdominal adiposity compared to fat discriminators (p < 0.05). Test-retest scores performed in a subset of participants (n= 40) showed moderate reliability of the fat discrimination test (rho = 0.53; p < 0.01). If these results are replicated, fat discrimination may serve as clinical research tool to identify participants who are at risk for obesity and other chronic diseases due to increased fat intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-475
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 18 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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