Flavor perception in human infants: development and functional significance.

Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Digestion (Impact Factor: 2.03). 01/2011; 83 Suppl 1:1-6. DOI: 10.1159/000323397
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Foods people consume impact on their health in many ways. In particular, excess intake of salty, sweet and fatty foods and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables have been related to many diseases including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The flavor of a food determines its acceptability and modulates intake. It is thus critical to understand the factors that influence flavor preferences in humans.
To outline several of the important factors that shape flavor preferences in humans.
We review a series of studies, mainly from our laboratories, on the important role of early experiences with flavors on subsequent flavor preference and food intake.
Some taste preferences and aversions (e.g. liking for sweet, salty and umami; disliking for bitter) are innately organized, although early experiences can modify their expression. In utero events may impact on later taste and flavor preferences and modulate intake of nutrients. Both before and after birth, humans are exposed to a bewildering variety of flavors that influence subsequent liking and choice. Fetuses are exposed to flavors in amniotic fluid modulating preferences later in life and flavor learning continues after birth. Experience with flavors that are bitter, sour or have umami characteristics, as well as volatile flavors such as carrot and garlic, occurs through flavorings in breast milk, infant formula and early foods. These early experiences mold long-term food and flavor preferences which can impact upon later health.

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