POSTED: 01/01/0001


Museum Partnering with Purdue University to Research the “Sixth Taste”

Denver—November 4, 2013—The community-based Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is initiating a new, groundbreaking population study beginning November 11. Findings will contribute new insights into humans’ ability to taste fatty acids and the possibility that there are more than just the five known tastes of sweet, sour, salty, umami (savory), and bitter. Visitors ages 8 and above are invited to participate in the study.

The study is led by Dr. Nicole Garneau, the Museum’s curator of human health, and Dr. Richard Mattes, distinguished professor of Nutrition Science at Purdue University.

“Research suggests that humans can detect the taste of fatty acids, but how individuals differ in fat perception is not known,” said Dr. Garneau. “To look into this question, the Genetics of Taste Lab is pursuing a new public research study. Using an omega-6 essential fatty acid, we will examine both genetic and environmental factors that might contribute to the ability to taste this important nutrient.”

The goal is to enroll 3,000 people over the course of the two-year study. During the 45 minute experience, participants will rate and describe a series of dissolvable taste strips, answer questions related to their taste, and list how everyone in their enrollment group is related, genetically or not. Each participant will leave with a fun packet of at-home games and experiments, a photo from the experience, and his or her very own set of nose clips. Children ages 8 to 18 will only be able to participate with permission from a legal guardian.

“We highly encourage family groups,” said Garneau, “and twins, both identical and fraternal, will be very significant for this study.”

The family connections are critical to determine if the taste of fat is inherent, said Mattes, director of Purdue's Ingestive Behavior Research Center.

"This is a unique research collaboration focusing on the taste of fat that will generate a large and rich data set," said Mattes, who studies the controls of human feeding and the mechanisms and functions of taste. "Understanding the taste of fat will provide insights about our biological systems, how to develop food products to optimize health and improve public health recommendations about diet and chronic disease risk reduction."

The Genetics of Taste Lab is located in Expedition Health, the Museum’s very popular exhibition about human biology. In addition to participating in citizen-scientist projects, visitors can peer into the real working genetics lab 364 days a year. This is the second study for the Genetics of Taste Lab with a focus on how very small distinctions in a person’s DNA can have a huge impact on how they perceive taste and how taste relates to overall health.

“The lab is committed to making scientific research accessible and relevant to people’s everyday lives,” said Dr. Garneau. “Actively generating and publishing new knowledge contributes to the field of genetics and human health.”

Beginning November 11, enrollment will be available daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit

Media Contact

Charlotte Hurley, [email protected], 303-370-6407

About the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region's leading resource for informal science education. A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205.  To learn more about the Museum, check, or call 303-370-6000. Many of the Museum’s educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public university located in West Lafayette, Ind. The university is known for science, technology, engineering, and math programs, with top-ranking disciplines in pharmacy, business, engineering and agriculture. More than 39,000 students are enrolled in the Big Ten school.


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