Sensory Aspects of Bitter and Sweet Tastes During Early Childhood : Nutrition Today

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Sensory Aspects of Bitter and Sweet Tastes During Early Childhood

Hayes, John E. PhD; Johnson, Susan L. PhD

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Nutrition Today 52(2):p S41-S51, 3/4 2017. | DOI: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000201


The flavor of food arises from multiple sensory inputs, including taste, smell, and oral touch. Human preference for food is driven by both biology and previous experience. Hedonic responses for taste and chemesthesis (chemically initiated touch sensations) are generally hardwired, whereas hedonic responses for smell are almost exclusively learned. With time, individuals can also learn to like the initially aversive oral sensations, such as the bitterness of beer or the burn of chili peppers, through a variety of mechanisms. Encouraging the development of healthy eating habits early in life is considered to be an optimal strategy to reduce the risk of diet-related chronic diseases. Over the past 2 decades, much has been written about how individual differences in taste sensation, especially bitterness, may either predispose or prevent a person from making healthy food choices. A related but separate body of work has systematically explored perceptual interactions between various taste stimuli. Unfortunately, these findings are infrequently integrated within the context of eating real foods to consider how they may influence food choice in humans. This article briefly highlights some key findings and attempts to integrate them to provide new insights on how to best encourage appropriate child-feeding behaviors.

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

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