The development of salty taste acceptance is related to dietary experience in human infants: a prospective study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;95(1):123-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.014282.


Background: Sodium intake is related to hypertension and other diseases, but little is known about the early development of salty taste acceptance.

Objective: The prospective study asked whether dietary experience with foods containing sodium is associated with development of infant salty taste preference.

Design: Infants (n = 61) were tested at 2 and 6 mo to assess their response to 0.17 and 0.34 mol NaCl/L in water. Intake tests consisted of randomized double-blind 120-s exposure to salt solutions and water. Acceptance, calculated as solution intake relative to water, was examined as a function of exposure to starchy table food-a significant source of sodium. Dietary exposure (yes or no) was defined by maternal report. As a control, similar comparisons were based on exposure to fruit table food. A subset of 26 subjects returned at 36-48 mo for assessment of salty taste hedonics and preference.

Results: Dietary experience was related to salt acceptance, with only those infants previously exposed to starchy table foods (n = 26) preferring the salty solutions at 6 mo (P = 0.007). Fruit exposure was not associated with sodium chloride acceptance. Infants eating starchy table foods at 6 mo were more likely to lick salt from the surface of foods at preschool age (P = 0.007) and tended to be more likely to eat plain salt (P = 0.08).

Conclusions: The findings suggest an influential role of early dietary experience in shaping salty taste responses of infants and young children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Taste*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary