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Metabolic Kitchen & Human Feeding Lab




Dustin J. Burnett, MS, RD

Principal Dietitian, Supervisor


Office:  430 West Health Sciences Drive

           University of California

           Davis, CA 95616


Phone:(530) 754-5844






Mission:  We support the Western Human Nutrition Research Center (WHNRC) scientists in their efforts to improve the health of all Americans by providing efficient and effective food production resources that are needed to conduct well-controlled human feeding trials and behavioral counseling studies.


Vision: The Metabolic Kitchen and Human Feeding Lab (MK&HFL) is an indispensable research support service with the skills to deliver safe, palatable, and effective foods that meet nutritional specifications of human feeding trials.


Overview:  The MK&HFL is a core support service at the WHNRC. Together with lead scientists, the MK&HFL staff design, produce, deliver, and monitor well-controlled feeding and behavioral counseling studies. 


Well-Controlled Feeding Studies: In well-controlled feeding studies, participants are expected to eat and drink only the nutrient-controlled vectors, i.e., foods and/or beverages that are accurately and precisely produced in the Metabolic Kitchen.  Some studies incorporate buffets to observe the foods eaten when participants are presented with a variety of options.  Well-controlled feeding studies enable scientists to determine the true biological effects of dietary interventions on a wide range of risk factors for chronic disease (Most et al, 2003).  pub




Nutrition technician, Sara Stoffel,

portions flavored sucrose solutions of varying

concentrations for a sensory analysis panel.

PrincipalDietitian and Supervisor, Dustin J. Burnett, adds a weighed amount of fresh green leaf lettuce to a sample of other foods that are representative of one of several nutrient-controlled menus.  The foods used in these menus are being homogenized and chemically analyzed to validate their calculated nutrient composition.



Behavioral Counseling Studies:  In behavioral counseling studies, participants are expected to self-select foods using dietary counseling and established guidelines.  Behavioral counseling studies enable scientists to understand the efficacy of dietary education in a "free living" environment. (Most et al, 2003)


Research Dietitian, Elaine Souza, reviews a dietary behavioral counseling protocol with student intern, Jennifer Liu.  The study tools in this photo include standardized dry and liquid measuring cups, measuring spoons, and educational handouts to enhance the effectiveness and consistency of documentation by study participants in the "free-living" world.


Key functions of the MK&HFL include the following:

••         Design, produce, deliver, monitor, and document nutrient-controlled meals and/or dietary vectors for human feeding studies with accuracy and precision; and validate calculated nutrient values by preparing composites for chemical analysis;


••         Collect, code, and summarize nutrient intake data using specialized software programs, food composition databases, e.g., USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, and contacting food product manufacturers directly;


••         Educate participants (individuals and groups) on the feeding requirements of studies; instruct participants on the importance of food safety; and counsel participants to maximize adherence to the study protocols;


••         Provide a controlled environment for the feeding and observation of "in house" study participants; and provide foods and beverages packed "to go" for weekends and "free-living" participants.







Nutrition technician, Julie Edwards-Watson, confirms the work of other employees and/or student interns.  In this photo, she is verifying that the correct dietary vectors (in this case, grape or placebo powder) are going to the correct study participants.






Most, Marlene, et al. An overview of methodologies, proficiencies, and training resources for controlled feeding studies. JAmDietAssoc. 2003; 103:729-735. pub