"Unfortunately, these problems that impact nutrition and quality of life are underestimated and understudied by oncologists," said Andrea Dietrich, Virginia Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE).
Dietrich believes there are two components to the metallic flavor –– the taste of metal ions on the tongue and the production of metal-catalyzed odors in the mouth that create a retro-nasal effect. "I am attempting to gain a better understanding of the metallic sensation, its prevention, and application to human health," Dietrich said.
Along with two of her university colleagues, Susan E. Duncan, professor of food science and technology, and YongWoo Lee, an assistant professor in the biomedical sciences and pathology department and a member of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Dietrich is the recipient of a $200,000 grant from the Institute of Public Health and Water Research (IPWR) to examine the problems of foul flavored water. The interdisciplinary investigative team combines proficiency in food oxidation and off-flavors, water chemistry, cell biology, and human perception.
Dietrich, the principal investigator on the project, is an expert on water quality and treatment, as well as its taste and odor assessment. In fact there are some 33 identified flavors of drinking water acknowledged by the American Water Works Association and Research Foundation (AwwaRF). They range in description from "wet paper" to "crushed grass" to "peaty" to "plastic."
Several years ago, AwwaRF sponsored Dietrich to travel around the U.S. to educate utility staff and managers on how to use sensory analysis to detect changes in water quality. She is also a co-developer of three odor-testing methods for the daily monitoring of raw and untreated water.
Now she is hoping to work with medical personnel as she, Duncan, and Lee compare the sensory thresholds, recommended nutritional levels, and adverse health effect levels of iron and copper in water, and their relationship to health-based problems such as persistent metallic tastes of patients receiving chemotherapy.
They hope to identify the cause of the metallic flavor in the mouth when drinking water contains metal ions, specifically iron and copper. Their research will also evaluate the use of antioxidants to prevent the metallic flavor production. "If we can discover the cause of the production of metallic flavor, then preventive methods can be taken accordingly," Dietrich said.
In correct amounts, metals in drinking water are actually important sources of micronutrients in the human diet. In fact, iron and copper are commonly found in drinking water, and they can be an important source of these mircronutrients. However, there are thresholds. If ingested at higher concentrations, greater than three milligrams per liter, iron and copper "may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney and liver damage," Dietrich explained.
Some tests will be done with human volunteers to determine reactions of volatile compounds in the mouth. Since saliva contains proteins and enzymes, it may have some effect in enhancing the metallic flavor. They will also use in-vitro experiments in order to conduct experiments at higher concentrations without endangering anyone, Dietrich added.
Perception of taste and odor is very complex, and like nutritional needs, varies depending on age, gender, race, health status, prior exposure and experience.
Two graduate CEE students, Pinar Omur-Ozbek and Jose Cerrato, both of Blacksburg, Va., will work on this project.
Lynn Nystrom | EurekAlert!
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences