The Taste and Smell Protocol in the 2011–2014 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): Test–Retest Reliability and Validity Testing

Shristi Rawal, Howard J. Hoffman, Mallory Honda, Tania B. Huedo-Medina, Valerie B. Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Introduction: The US NHANES 2011–2014 protocol includes a taste and smell questionnaire (CSQ) in home-based interviews and brief assessments in mobile exam centers. We report the short- and longer-term test–retest reliability and validity of this protocol against broader chemosensory measures. Methods: A convenience sample of 73 adults (age = 39.5 ± 20.8 years) underwent the NHANES protocol at baseline, 2 weeks and 6 months. For taste, participants rated intensities of two tastants (1 M NaCl, 1 mM quinine) applied to the tongue tip and three tastants (1 M NaCl, 1 mM quinine, 0.32 M NaCl) sampled with the whole mouth. Smell function was assessed with a Pocket Smell Test™ (PST; eight-item odor identification test). The CSQ asked about chemosensory problems, distortions, and age-related changes. Broader baseline measurements were a 40-item olfactometer-generated identification task and additional whole-mouth taste intensities (1 M sucrose, 32 mM citric acid, 3.2 mM propylthiouracil). Results: Intraclass correlations (ICCs) for NHANES taste measures showed moderate-to-good agreement after 2 weeks and 6 months (ICCs 0.42–0.71). Whole-mouth quinine intensity was significantly correlated with other taste intensities, supporting its utility as a marker for overall taste functioning. Olfactory classification from PSTs agreed for 98.5 % of participants across 2 weeks (κ = 0.85; 95 % CI 0.71–0.99) and had good correspondence with the olfactometer task. CSQ items showed good-to-excellent agreement over 6 months (ICCs 0.66–0.90). Conclusions: These findings further support that the NHANES chemosensory protocol has moderate-to-good test–retest reliability when administered to healthy, educated adults. Despite being a brief procedure with limited measures, the NHANES taste and smell assessments provided good information when compared to broader measures of taste and smell function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-148
Number of pages11
JournalChemosensory Perception
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Bitter
  • Health status
  • Psychophysics
  • Smell perception
  • Taste perception


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