Julie A. Mennella

Faculty

Affiliations

Member, Monell Chemical Senses Center

Education

M.S., Ph.D., The University of Chicago, Department of Biological Sciences, Committee on Biopsychology
M.S., De Paul University, Department of Biological Sciences
B.S., Loyola University, Department of Biology

Research Summary

Dr. Mennella has made significant discoveries on the development of flavor senses, early nutritional programming, and the effects of alcohol and tobacco use on women’s health and physiology, publishing more than 200 scientific articles and chapters. This research revealed that volatiles from the mother’s diet can flavor her amniotic fluid and human milk and that there are sensitive periods during the first few months in which flavor experiences impact later preferences. Childhood is a time of heightened preference for sweet and salty, and aversion to some bitter tastes. Understanding individual variation in perception, and how to measure it, is another research priority which may pave the way to tailor medicines and design dietary interventions to promote healthy eating for pediatric populations. These research discoveries have guided national and worldwide health initiatives, including the USDA and HHS Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months (P/B-24) Project, the Breastmilk Ecology and the Genesis of Infant Nutrition (BEGIN) Project, and the World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. Her research on infant flavor learning was recently featured in the popular Netflix series Babies, in the episode “Senses.”

Since 1990, Dr. Mennella has been funded continuously through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), primarily by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She has received other honors and awards, including being elected Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice in 2016. Dr. Mennella was the 2020 recipient of the Max Mozell Award, an honor given annually by the Association for Chemoreception Sciences for outstanding achievement in the chemical senses.

Research Areas

  • Flavor and nutritional programming in humans
  • Getting babies off to a healthy start: development of food preferences
  • The taste of pediatric medicines from a personalized medicine perspective
  • Determinants of sweet and salt preferences during childhood
  • Development of psychophysical methods to study olfaction, taste and chemesthesis across the lifespan
  • Biomarkers for dietary intake across the lifespan
  • Effect of reproductive state on dietary intake and weight loss in women

Keywords

infants, children, nutrition, flavor, taste, olfaction, psychophysical methods, experimental design, women’s health, mother-child interaction lactation, infant formula feeding, breastfeeding, growth, development, addiction, biomarkers, nutritional programming, early rapid weight gain, energy balance, personalized medicine, taste of pediatric medicines

Selected Publications During the Past Five Years

For a complete list of publications, please visit PubMed.gov (ORCHID ID).

Makhlouf M, Débora G. Souza DG, Kurian S, Bellaver B, Ellis H, Kuboki A, Al-Naama A, Hasnah R, Venturin GT, Costa da Costa J, Venugopal N, Manoel D, Mennella JA, Reisert, J, Tordoff MG, Zimmer ER, Saraiva LR. (2024) Short-term consumption of highly processed diets varying in macronutrient contents impair the sense of smell and brain metabolism in mice. Molecular Metabolism, 79:101837. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2023.101837

McCaughey SA, Forestell CA, Mennella JA. (2024) Chapter 9, Taste and Smell. In: Ashwall S, Pearl P, eds. Swaiman’s Pediatric Neurology: Principles and Practices. 7th ed. New York: Elsevier.

Mennella JA, Kan M, Lowenthal D, Saraiva LR, Mainland J, Himes BE, Pepino MY. (2023) Individual differences in the sensory perception of an over-the-counter ibuprofen formulation for children: Can a medicine taste too good for some? Int J Mol Sci 24(17):13050. doi: 10.3390/ijms241713050

Krebs NE, Belfort B, Meier P, Mennella JA, O’Connor DL, Taylor SN, Raiten DJ. (2023) Infant factors that impact the ecology of human milk secretion and composition —a report from Breastmilk Ecology and the Genesis of Infant Nutrition (BEGIN) Working Group 3. Am J Clin Nutr 117: S43-S60, 2023. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.01.021

Mennella JA, Smethers AD, Delahany MT, Stallings VA, Trabulsi JT. (2023) Glutamic acid intake by formula-fed infants: Are acceptable daily intakes appropriate? Eur J Pediatr;182(12):5701-5705. doi: 10.1007/s00431-023-05215-6.

San Gabriel A, Mennella JA. (2023) Chapter 5: Umami taste: Inborn and experiential effects on taste acceptance and satiation during infancy. In: Umami: Food and Health. San Gabriel A., Rains TM, Beauchamp GK (eds). Springer Nature.

Valmorbida JL, Sangalli CN, Leffa PS, Paola S, Baratto PS, Rauber F, Mennella JA, Vitolo, MR. (2023) Sodium intake tracked from infancy and salt taste preference during adolescence: Follow-up of a randomized controlled field trial in Brazil. Current Developments in Nutrition 7. doi: 10.1016/j.cdnut.2022.100011.

Smethers AD, Trabulsi JC, Stallings VA, Papas MA, Mennella JA. (2023) Factors affecting BMI changes in women during the first year postpartum. Nutrients 15: 1364. doi: 10.3390/nu15061364.

Mennella JA, Li Y, Bittinger K, Friedman E, Zhao C, Li H, Wu GD, Trabulsi JC. (2022). The macronutrient composition of infant formula produces differences in gut microbiota maturation that associates with weight gain velocity and weight status: Follow-up of a randomized controlled feeding trial. Nutrients 14(6), 1241. doi: 10.3390/nu14061241.

Joseph, PV, Mennella JA, Cowart, BJ, Pepino, MY. (2022) Psychophysical tracking method to assess taste detection thresholds in children, adolescents and adults: The Taste Detection Threshold (TDT) Test. J Vis Exp 21: 170. doi: 10.3791/62384.

Petty, S, Salame, C, Mennella JA, Pepino, MY. (2022) Relationships between taste detection thresholds and preference for sucrose in children, adolescents and adults. Nutrients 12(7): 1918. doi: 10.3390/nu12071918.

Smethers AD, Mennella JA. Sweet taste and added sugar consumption in infancy and childhood. (2021) In: Joseph PV, Duffy V. (eds). Sensory Science and Chronic Diseases: Clinical Implications and Disease Management. Springer Nature. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-86282-4

Mennella JA, Reiter A, Brewer B, Pohlig R, Stallings V, Trabulsi JC. (2020) Rapid weight gain forecasts accelerated eruption of deciduous teeth and later overweight status during the first year. J Pediatr 225: 174-181.e2.

Trabulsi J, Smethers AD, Eosso J, Papas M, Stallings V, Mennella JA. (2020) Impact of early rapid weight gain on odds for overweight at one year differs between breastfed and formula-fed infants. Pediatr Obes, 15(10): E12688.

Petty S, Salame C, Mennella JA, Pepino MY. (2020) Relationships between taste detection thresholds and preference for sucrose in children, adolescents and adults. Nutrients 12(7): E1918.

Okronipa H, Arimond M, Arnold CD, Young RR, Tamakloe SM, Adu-Afarwuah S, Kumordzie SK, Ocansey ME, Oaks BM, Mennella JA, Dewey KG. (2019) Exposure to a slightly sweet lipid-based nutrient supplement during early life does not increase sweet taste preference at age 4-6 y in Ghana: Follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 109: 1224-1232. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy352.

Mennella JA, Forestell CA, Ventura AK, Fisher JO. (2020) Chapter 10: Development of infant feeding. In: Tamis-LeMonda C; Lockman J, (eds). The Cambridge Handbook of Infant Development: Brain, Behavior, and Cultural Context. Cambridge University Press; p. 263-302.

Spahn JM, Callahan EH, Spill MK, Wong YP, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Birch L, Black MM, Cook JT, Faith MS, Mennella JA, Casavale KO. (2019) Influence of maternal diet on flavor transfer to amniotic fluid and breast milk and children’s responses: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 109, 1003S-1026S.

Spill MK, Callahan EH, Shapiro MJ, Spahn J, Wong YP, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Birch L, Black MM, Cook JT, Faith MS, Mennella JA, Casavale KO. (2019) Caregiver feeding practices and child weight outcomes: A systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 109: 990-1002S.

Spill MK, Johns K, Callahan EH, Shapiro MJ, Wong YP, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Birch L, Black MM, Cook JT, Faith MS, Mennella JA, Casavale KO. (2019) Repeated exposure to food and food acceptability in infants and toddlers: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 109, 978S-989S.

Bobowski N, Mennella JA. (2019) Repeated exposure to low-sodium cereal affects acceptance but does not shift taste preferences or detection thresholds of children in a randomized clinical trial. J Nutr. 149, 870-876.

Mennella JA, Inamdar L, Pressman N, Schall JI, Papas MA, Schoeller D, Stallings VA, Trabulsi JC. (2018) Type of infant formula increases early weight gain and impacts energy balance: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 108, 1015-1025.

Mennella JA, Mathew PS, Lowenthal ED. (2017) Use of adult sensory panel to study individual differences in the palatability of a pediatric HIV treatment drug. Clin Ther, 39: 2038- 2048.

Mennella JA, Bobowski NL. (2017) Personal variation in preference for sweetness: Effects of age and obesity. Child Obes, 13: 369-376.

Mennella JA, Daniels LM, Reiter AR. (2017) Learning to like vegetables during breastfeeding: A randomized clinical trial of lactating mothers and infants. Am J Clin Nutr, 106(1): 67-76.

MacLean PS, Blundell JE, Mennella JA, Batterham RL. (2017) Biological control of appetite: A daunting complexity. J Obesity (Silver Spring) 25 Suppl 1: S8-S16.

Julie Mennella

Contact Information

(267) 519-4880
mennella@monell.org