Developmental changes in the acceptance of the five basic tastes in the first year of life

Br J Nutr. 2009 Nov;102(9):1375-85. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509990286. Epub 2009 Jun 9.


Taste is a major determinant of children's food preferences, but its development is incompletely known. Thus, exploring infants' acceptance of basic tastes is necessary. The first objective was to evaluate the acceptance of tastes and their developmental changes over the first year. The second objective was to compare acceptance across tastes. The third objective was to evaluate global taste reactivity (within-subject variability of acceptance across tastes). Acceptance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami tastes was assessed in three groups of forty-five 3-, 6- and 12-month-old infants using observations based on ingestion and liking scored by the experimenter. For each taste, four bottles were presented (water, tastant, tastant, water). Acceptance of each taste relative to water was defined using proportional variables based on ingestion or liking. Acceptance over the first year only evolved for sweet taste (marginal decrease) and salty taste (clear increase). At each age, sweet and salty tastes were the most preferred tastes. Reactions to umami were neutral. Sour and bitter tastes were the least accepted ones but rejected only when considering liking data. Ingestion and liking were complementary to assess taste acceptance. However, congruency between these measures rose during the first year. Moreover, with increasing age, reactions were more and more contrasted across tastes. Finally, during the first year, inter-individual variability increased for all tastes except salty taste. By enhancing knowledge of the development of taste acceptance the present study contributes to understand better food behaviour in infancy, the foundation of food behaviour in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology
  • Anthropometry
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Male
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Perception / physiology*