Skip to main content
ARS Home » News & Events » News Articles » Research News » 2021 » Richard Mattes Presents 2020-21 ARS W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture

Richard Mattes Presents 2020-21 ARS W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture

Contact: Kim Kaplan

Washington, June 8, 2021—"Predictive Strength of Atwater Values at the Biology: Behavior Interface" is the title of Richard D. Mattes' 2020-21 Agricultural Research Service W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture, presented today at Nutrition Live Online 2021, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.

"My lecture highlights the interactive relationships between selected determinants of ingestive behavior and energy balance and challenges assumptions that may be impeding a fuller understanding of the energetics of feeding," Mattes said.

Mattes has been described as one of America's leading nutrition scientists. He is one of the 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. His research focuses on hunger and satiety, food preferences, regulation of food intake in people, and the chemistry of taste and smell as they interact with hunger and satiety.

In the early 1980s, Mattes’ studies characterized the relationship between salt taste and hypertension. His published work indicated three-quarters of the sodium in the U.S. diet was coming from processed food. These results, and other evidence, prompted many food companies to reduce the sodium content in their products. Mattes’ findings are still considered the authoritative source on sodium levels in processed foods.

He also published a series of studies describing the nature and nutritional consequences of food aversions in patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In addition, Mattes’ research has helped clarify how nut consumption affects body weight and contributed to new perspectives on the inclusion of nuts in a healthy diet.

Richard D. Mattes ARS 2020-21 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecturer Richard D. Mattes

His work also led to the groundbreaking finding that fatty acids are detected in the mouth by the sense of taste in addition to olfactory and somatosensory cues—results that challenge the long-held view that taste is comprised of only a limited number of primary qualities (i.e., sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami). This discovery may prove to be critical for understanding why people prefer certain foods and contributes basic information about how different macronutrients can prompt a range of physiological responses through their sensory properties alone.

In another innovative study in 2012, Mattes demonstrated the importance of cognition on human physiology. Experts believe this study, which confirms the fundamental role of human cognition in the physical and mental control of dietary intake, will one day be regarded as a seminal study in nutritional research.

Mattes is a distinguished professor in the Department of Nutrition Science, head of the Department of Public Health and director of the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University. He also is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and an affiliated scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

The W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture was established by ARS in 1968 to honor the memory of Wilbur Olin Atwater (1844-1907) and to recognize scientists who have made unique contributions toward improving the diet and nutrition of people around the world. Atwater, considered the father of modern nutrition research and education, was the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first chief of nutrition investigations. More information about the W.O. Atwater Lecture can be found at

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.