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The NIAAA is the lead agency for U.S. research on the causes, consequences, prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorder and alcohol-related problems.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Taste and Smell in Obesity

Section of Sensory Science, and Metabolism logo

Mechanisms underlying individual variations of Taste and Smell in Obesity

This study aims to examine and compare taste and smell differences between obese and non-obese individuals.

The study involves 3 visits to the National Institutes of Health (located in Bethesda, MD); where you will be asked to complete a series of self-report questionnaires, provide samples and complete tests that involve smelling and tasting different substances. The study also involves completing a 3-day food diary, a 14-day sleep diary, confidential drug screen, and wearing a wristwatch-like device for 14 days to track your physical activity and sleep. Before we bring you in, we would first like to ask you some questions to help determine if you might be eligible to participate. If you are determined eligible for in-person evaluation, then you will come to the NIH to complete screening.

To learn more about the study, see the full study description on

To check if you qualify for screening at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, click here to answer a prescreening survey.

Overview of the Sensory Science and Metabolism (SensMet) Lab

Our senses are essential for us to interact with the world. Our five senses–sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell work closely to enable the mind to understand its surroundings better. Gustation (taste), olfaction (smell), and chemesthesis (refers to chemical irritation from the burning of chili peppers, the cooling of menthol, and the tingling of soda) are involved in the perception of flavor for food and beverages. Chemosensory perceptions, which can influence food/beverage choices and consumption, may be altered, and differ in individuals with obesity and alcohol use disorder. Given that both obesity and excessive alcohol consumption are major public health issues, our lab focuses on these two disorders to further characterize how the chemical senses may be contributing to the mechanism of alcohol consumption and overeating. Currently, little is known about the underlying neurological, biological, and molecular mechanisms causing variations in the gustatory and olfactory systems in individuals with obesity and alcohol use disorder, limiting the interventions currently available to address these critical issues.

To understand the differences in individuals’ taste and smell and their impact on food or alcohol intake, scientists at the Section of Sensory Science and Metabolism (SenSMet) at the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse developed research studies. If you are interested to learn more about these studies, please click on the links below.

Contact Information

Phone: 240-731-4870
Mailing Address:
Section of Sensory Science and Metabolism
10 Center Drive
Building 10, Room 2A07
Bethesda, MD, 20892  

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