Press Releases

A cracker of a lecture! – University of Reading

Release Date : 23 December 2009

Dr Lisa Methven giving the childrens' Christmas lecture

Youngsters who dislike Brussel sprouts can now blame their genes, according to the annual Children's Christmas lecture at the University of Reading.

Dr Lisa Methven, a lecturer in food and nutritional sciences, said it all came down to over-sensitive taste buds during her talk on ‘The Science behind Christmas Dinner'.

Lisa explained that the more taste buds on someone's tongue, the more likely they will taste sprouts as bitter. "These people have a heightened perception of the bitter taste - we call them 'supertasters' - and this is due to their genetic make-up. They experience the bitter taste up to 60 times higher than someone with an average number of taste buds."

However, Lisa was quick to let the children know that this isn't an excuse not to eat their green veg. "Just because you don't like something, doesn't mean you can't train yourself to like it - if you keep on trying, you probably will like it in the end."

Lisa took the children through a three-course Christmas dinner, explaining the chemical reactions that make our favourite festive food taste the way it does, and why certain things are good for us.

Did you know:

  • Your cranberry sauce can make you think faster and improve your health. Cranberries can protect brain cells from damage and the tartness in the fruit can enhance your memory, balance and co-ordination. They also provide necessary antioxidants which keep you healthy and fit.
  • We can remember 10,000 different aromas.
  • We have 25 types of bitter receptors on our tongue and one affects how we rate green veg,such as sprouts, broccoli and kale.
  • Young children on average need to see new food 15 times before they will taste it. So mums and dads persevere with the fruit and veg!


For more information, please contact Rona Cheeseman, Press Officer, on 0118 378 7388, email

Notes to editor:

 The University of Reading is rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world (THE-QS World Rankings 2009).

  • The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly £10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the RAE 2008, over 87% of the university's research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.
  • Standards of teaching are excellent - the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2009.  87% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.
  • The University is estimated to contribute £600 million to the local economy annually.
  • University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.
  • More information at




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