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Purdue study looks at why we all taste food differently

Posted at 12:04 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 14:35:29-05

WEST LAFAYETTE — Thanksgiving dinner is perhaps one of the biggest meals most of us have throughout the year. And with so many different items on the menu, you may wonder why you love one thing, and the person next to you can't stand it.

Well, a study at Purdue University is trying to explain why we all taste food differently.

"So, my research is all about saliva, perception, ingestion, and tongues, which is why we call it the SPIT lab," Cori Running, assistant professor at Purdue University, said.

The students in her 'SPIT Lab' are working to find out why we experience food the way we do.

"We study things like how you experience the food, what you think about the food, how you eat that food, and also how it is biochemically broken down in your mouth. That's the spit part," Running said.

Each student in her lab gets to conduct their own experiment. Sophomore, Madeline Harper, is working to combine two sciences in her trial.

"Combining biology and psychology to figure out the patterns of why people like to eat what they eat," Harper said.

Harper is making different solutions, and having the participants answer questions about the taste verbally and electronically.

"It helped me realize how much science goes into basic things like eating and perceiving the flavors of the things that we eat, and I think that's really interesting," Harper said.

Running says based on the results thus far, the way we taste food is pretty complex.

"What you eat can actually change your saliva, and those changes in your saliva could then, in turn, influence the flavor of what you are eating, which means a circle; it comes back," Running said. "So what you ate changes the flavor of what you ate, and that's going to change your spit in ways that change the flavor of what you ate, and that might change what you decide to eat, and so it gets to be a complex relationship."

A fun experiment you can do at home is spitting into a pudding cup and see how it changes the consistency.

Click here to learn more about the Purdue SPIT Lab.

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