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Valerie Duffy, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Valerie Duffy, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Allied Health Sciences | University of Connecticut


Professor focused on how variation in taste affects food flavor and food preference, translated to healthier eating to reduce obesity risk.


Valerie B. Duffy (PhD, RD) offers a wealth of experience in food, nutrition, and health promotion. The Duffy Lab at the University of Connecticut has two main research interests. First, we attempt to understand variation in taste perception in humans and how this variation influences food flavor, food preference and food consumption. More recently, we study how chemosensory variation influences responses to flavored cigarettes and e-cigarettes as well as bariatric surgery. Our ultimate goal is to understand how taste variation influences our ability to follow a healthy diet and behaviors for the prevention of chronic disease and obesity. Second, we partner with community agencies across the state to promote healthy diets and healthy weights of children and their families, particularly those of economic disadvantage. Through involvement of undergraduate and graduate students, we are investigating the effectiveness of tailored health promotion messages, mhealth, and community-based interventions in primary care and school settings.

Dr. Duffy and her students have numerous publications and presentations at national and international meetings. She has received several awards for excellence in teaching, research and service. Students who have trained with Dr. Duffy are advancing nutrition and health promotion through research, practice or public health leadership. Dr. Duffy has served as major advisor for and completed thirty-four students in their Master’s degree and four students in their Doctoral degrees. She has served as associate advisor for numerous Masters and Doctoral students, and provides research experiences for many undergraduates into her research laboratory each year. She currently serves as major advisor for five Masters students and one Doctoral student.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Community-based Interventions




Food Preference


Health Promotion


Education (3)

University of Connecticut: Ph.D., Nutritional Sciences 1992

Rush University: M.S., Human Nutrition 1984

Cornell University: B.S., Human Ecology 1992

Accomplishments (1)

Associate Fellow (professional)

5-year appointment, Pierson College, Yale University, New Haven, CT






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Media Appearances (4)

Being A Veggie Hater Could Be Genetic

Medical Daily  online


Research has found people born with the "bitter gene" are 2.6 times more likely to eat fewer vegetables than people who don't have this gene, according to a new study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA). "The person who has that genetic propensity gets more of the sulfur flavor of, say, Brussels sprouts, especially if they've been overcooked," Valerie Duffy, a University of Connecticut professor and an expert in the study of food taste, preference and consumption, said.

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Losses in Smell and Taste Are Common With Age -- and Can Cause Big Trouble

USA Today  


And that’s just the beginning, he and other experts say: Older adults with impaired senses of smell and taste are at risk for everything from accidentally eating spoiled food to dying in undetected fires and gas leaks. And a loss of pleasure in smelling and tasting food is not a minor problem, they say: it can lead to dangerous weight loss in some frail elders, while leading others to gorge on unhealthy sweet, salty or fatty foods — always “hoping the next bite will taste better,” says Valerie Duffy, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut...

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How Your Taste Buds Can Help You Lose Weight

ABC News  


"When it comes to taste, each one of us is hardwired differently," says Valerie Duffy, RD, professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut. And emerging research is showing that our flavor preferences may affect our waistlines and health in surprising ways. Check out the fascinating scoop on exactly what’s going on inside your mouth and how to tap your taste buds to dump unwanted pounds...

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From Kale To Pale Ale, A Love Of Bitter May Be In Your Genes



Several years back, Hayes and researcher Valerie Duffy of the University of Connecticut set out to do an experiment. They already knew that some people (about a quarter of the population) have a version of one taste receptor gene, known as TAS2R38, that makes them more sensitive to the perception of bitter. "The idea of how bitter you taste something is [tied to] how strongly the bitter [compounds] in food bind with a receptor," explains Duffy. Then, the receptor sends a signal to the brain that says, "Oh, this is bitter."...

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Research Grants (2)

Tailored messages for health promotion and obesity prevention using e-health and m-health

Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station 


Supporting the development of healthy eating in young toddlers through a coordinated, clear and consistent communications program (the 4 C’s) in one low-income Connecticut community.

Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut 

Co-Principal Investigator

Articles (9)

Associations between Weight Loss, Food Likes, Dietary Behaviors, and Chemosensory Function in Bariatric Surgery: A Case-Control Analysis in Women


Hubert PA, Papasavas P, Stone A, Swede H, Huedo-Medina TB, Tishler D, Duffy VB

2019 We tested the hypothesis that successful weight loss post-bariatric surgery would be associated with healthier chemosensory function, food likes, and dietary behaviors than either unsuccessful weight loss or pre-surgery morbid obesity. In a case-control design, pre-surgical women with morbid obesity (n = 49) were compared with those 1-year post-surgery (24 Roux-en-Y Bypass, 24 Sleeve Gastrectomy) and defined by excess or percent weight loss as successful/unsuccessful.

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Modeling Associations between Chemosensation, Liking for Fats and Sweets, Dietary Behaviors and Body Mass Index in Chronic Smokers


Larsen BA, Litt MD, Huedo-Medina TB, Duffy VB

2019 Chronic smokers have a greater risk for altered chemosensation, unhealthy dietary patterns, and excessive adiposity. In an observational study of chronic smokers, we modeled relationships between chemosensation, fat/carbohydrate liking, smoking-associated dietary behaviors, and body mass index (BMI).

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Heightened olfactory dysfunction and oral irritation among chronic smokers and heightened propylthiouracil (PROP) bitterness among menthol smokers

Physiol Behav

Duffy VB, Glennon S-G, Larsen BA, Rawal S, Oncken C, Litt MD.

2019 Chronic cigarette smoking may influence chemosensory function, which in turn, may affect cigarette usage. Because menthol in cigarettes can attenuate nicotine bitterness, choice of menthol/nonmenthol cigarettes may be influenced by ability to perceive bitterness. We examined chemosensory function of chronic smokers, hypothesizing they would show altered function in comparison to non-smokers and by menthol cigarette preference.

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Pediatric Adapted Liking Survey: A Novel, Feasible and Reliable Dietary Screening in Clinical Practice

Caries Res

Smith SR, Johnson ST, Oldman SM, Duffy VB

2019 Rapid yet useful methods are needed to screen for dietary behaviors in clinical settings. We tested the feasibility and reliability of a pediatric adapted liking survey (PALS) to screen for dietary behaviors and suggest tailored caries and obesity prevention messages.

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E-cigarette palatability in smokers as a function of flavorings, nicotine content and propylthiouracil (PROP) taster phenotype

Addictive Behaviors

Mead E, Duffy V, Oncken C, Litt MD

2019 The popularity of E-cigarettes is due in part to their flavorings. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect on smokers' sensory perceptions and liking of various e-cigarette flavorings, and the degree to which those perceptions are influenced by nicotine level, sex, and PROP bitter taster phenotype.

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Taste phenotype associates with cardiovascular disease risk factors via diet quality in multivariate modeling

Physiol Behav

Sharafi M, Rawal S, Fernandez ML, Huedo-Medina TB, Duffy VB

2018 Sensations from foods and beverages drive dietary choices, which in turn, affect risk of diet-related diseases. Perception of these sensation varies with environmental and genetic influences. This observational study aimed to examine associations between chemosensory phenotype, diet and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

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Structural Equation Modeling of Associations Among Taste‐related Risk Factors, Taste Functioning, and Adiposity


Shristi Rawal, Tania B Huedo‐Medina, Howard J Hoffman, Helen Swede, Valerie B Duffy

2017 Variation in taste perception and exposure to risk factors of taste alterations have been independently linked with elevated adiposity. Using a laboratory database, taste-adiposity associations were modeled and examined for whether taste functioning mediates the association between taste-related risk factors and adiposity.

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Characterizing and Improving the Sensory and Hedonic Responses to Polyphenol-rich Aronia Berry Juice


Valerie B Duffy, Shristi Rawal, Jeeha Park, Mark H Brand, Mastaneh Sharafi, Bradley W Bolling

2016 Interest in nutrient-rich berry juices is growing, but their high polyphenol levels render them sensorily unappealing. Fifty adults, who were assessed for sensory phenotype and dietary behaviors, provided sensory and palatability ratings of juices from ‘Viking’ aronia berries for each of seven harvest weeks. By peak harvest, juice preference increased two-fold, averaging neither like/dislike. This hedonic shift was associated with: increases in juice sugars paralleling increases in perceived sweetness (maximum = weak); reductions in percent acidity paralleling reductions in sourness (minimum = moderate), astringency (minimum = to just above weak) and bitterness (minimum = just below weak). About 25% of adults liked the aronia juice, including adults who also liked an aqueous citric acid solution (average rating = moderately sour) or those who reported adventurous eating behaviors.

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Cigarette Smoking and Electronic Cigarette Vaping Patterns as a Function of E-cigarette Flavourings

Tobacco Control

Mark D Litt, Valerie Duffy, Cheryl Oncken

2016 The present study examined the influence of flavouring on the smoking and vaping behaviour of cigarette smokers asked to adopt e-cigarettes for a period of 6 weeks.

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