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Taste Test by Leah, Folabi and Julia

We love to eat! But we disagree about what flavor is our favorite. We noticed that if you have a cold, food doesn't taste the same. We wondered why having a stuffy nose affects your sense of taste. Our question: What does your nose have to do with how things taste?

What did we do?
We chose eight foods or flavors to use in our taste test: salty water, cinnamon sugar syrup, fresh lime, Brussels sprouts, mild salsa, dry roasted peanuts, onions and candy mints. We chopped each food up separately in a blender, so that the textures would be similar. We gathered five of our friends as taste testers. One at a time, we invited our friends into our tasting kitchen. We had each friend wear colored swim goggles so he or she couldn't recognize the food. First, everyone tasted each food while wearing nose plugs, then they tasted it again without the nose plugs. Each taster told us what flavors they could recognize in each case and tried to identify what the food was.

What did we find out?
We discovered that when our friends wore nose plugs, they could correctly identify flavors like salty, sweet and sour. A few people could even pick out certain flavors like the mint and cinnamon. When the tasters took off the nose plugs, many reported that the flavors were stronger and more of them recognized things like the salsa or the peanuts. By studying a computer image of the mouth and nose, we found that there is a passage from the back of the mouth to the nose. This is how flavors like minty or spicy reached some of the tasters' noses, even when they wore nose plugs.

What can you do?
  • Are you a supertaster? Read about supertasters on the Internet and come up with a way to count the number of tastebuds on your tongue.
  • What other factors affect a person's taste preference? Why do some people love peanut butter, when others can't stand it? Try to come up with an investigation that answers this question.
  • Use this life science investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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