Smells like fat: A systematic scoping review on the contribution of olfaction to fat perception in humans and rodents

Matjaž Pirc*, Shuo Mu, Gino Frissen, Markus Stieger, Sanne Boesveldt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Understanding how dietary fat is perceived by the senses is crucial in developing public health strategies aimed at curbing excessive fat intakes. Olfaction is one of several sensory modalities contributing to fat perception in foods, yet the nature and extent of its involvement is relatively unclear. A systematic scoping literature review was conducted to identify and summarise relevant evidence on the contribution of olfaction to dietary fat perception in humans and rodents and highlight relevant knowledge gaps. The review was carried out in accordance with the PRISMA methodology, using combinations of olfaction-, fat- and perception-related search terms. Following searches in Scopus, Web of Science and PubMed databases, 42 articles were ultimately included. Overall, findings are consistent with the notion that olfaction plays a role in the perception of dietary fat in rodents and humans. Rodents can perceive dietary fat via olfactory cues, and this ability may affect their preference for fat-containing feed. Humans can detect, discriminate, and identify fat and its constituents solely by olfaction, even when embedded within a complex food matrix. Food fat content can modulate the perception of various fat- and non-fat olfactory qualities, depending on the food matrix and odorant physio-chemical properties. On the other hand, the presence of fat-related odours can modify the perception of olfactory and non-olfactory sensory qualities (e.g., mouthfeel). Several knowledge gaps were identified, namely, the role of fat-related odours in eating behaviour, the nature of chemical signals underlying olfactory fat perception and factors governing sensitivity to fat-related odours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104847
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Fat perception
  • Olfaction
  • Orthonasal
  • Retronasal
  • Systematic scoping review


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