For the first time, researchers have discovered a human receptor for the taste of fat, and some people may be more sensitive to it.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers studied 21 obese patients, and found that people with a particular variant of the CD36 gene are far more sensitive to the presence of fat than others.

“We've found one potential reason for individual variability in how people sense fat,” said senior investigator Nada A. Abumrad, PhD, the Dr. Robert A. Atkins Professor of Medicine and Obesity Research. “What we will need to determine in the future is whether our ability to detect fat in foods influences our fat intake, which clearly would have an impact on obesity.”

The study is available online in the Journal of Lipid Research.