• SCIENCE - complete!

    Well, science is never complete. But at least we have written up some results of these experiments!

    Chocolate milk

    Spit makes flavor!

    Or flavor makes spit?

    We’re looking into how bitter or astringent flavors interact with your saliva. There’s proteins in your spit that likely cause those astringent (dry, rough, constricting) feelings when you eat certain types of chocolate, tea, red wine, persimmons, and many other foods. We want to know what happens to those proteins as you eat those foods, and if we can change how those proteins work. Maybe if we can, we could make the “bad” flavors like bitterness and astringency weaker. Click here to learn about how drinking chocolate milk altered people's saliva!

    A person drinking a milkshake

    What irritating flavors could we get older adults to drink?

    Helping people swallow safely, without all the goo...

    In collaboration with Dr. Georgia Malandraki and I-EAT Lab, we are testing how special flavors might be able to help folks swallow. Many of those flavors are kind of unpleasant, though--like spiciness, intense sourness, or stinging sensations from carbonation. Click here to see our summary of how older adults experienced a variety of "chemesthetic" (spicy, stinging, and other irritating sensations) beverages!

    Cola pouring into a glass

    The first drink is stronger than the last...

    At least for spicy, biting, or stinging beverages

    You may have noticed that when you eat spicy foods, in particular, the sensation isn't the same on every bite. When the sensation is stronger than the last time, we call the sensitization. When it's weaker, we call it desensitization. This creates a problem for us at the SPIT lab, because we're doing a lot of research on spicy, stinging, and biting sensations! So, we ran a test with some spicy and carbonated beverages from the store. When we tested them, people did indeed rate them as weaker over the course of the experience (desensitization). However, we didn't see any of the reverse effect (sensitization). Check out the published article here.

    A tray of cafeteria food

    Folks on dialysis taste things differently

    Seriously, kidney disease is a struggle.

    Kidneys help clean our your blood. Things like sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and urea are all things that need to be filtered out of your blood--but are all also things that cause taste. Normally, you'd have a pretty constant level of these molecules in your blood. But folks on dialysis (man-made kidney machine) only get these molecules cleaned out every couple of days. So, they go from high levels to low levels pretty rapidly. This messes with taste, because you can taste your own blood--either by blood filtering out into saliva, which you are drinking all day long (you're welcome for that thought!), or because your taste cells touch blood vessels (so they can kinda taste what's inside). We looked into some of these taste molecules in blood, and found that folks on dialysis actually taste some of them more strongly (click for details).