The sweet tooth of infancy: Is sweetness exposure related to sweetness liking in infants up to 12 months of age?

Br J Nutr. 2022 Aug 11;129(8):1-11. doi: 10.1017/S0007114522002628. Online ahead of print.


Infants become increasingly exposed to sweet-tasting foods in their first year of life. However, it is still unclear whether repeated exposure to sweet taste is linked to infants' sweetness liking during this period. Making use of data from the OPALINE cohort, this study aimed to examine the link between sweetness exposure and sweetness liking during two important periods in early infant feeding: at the start of complementary feeding (3-6 months) and the transition to the family table (10-12 months). Infants' sweetness exposure was assessed using 7-d food records which were completed by mothers every month (n 312), reporting daily consumption rates of formula/breast milk or complementary food and the type of formula milk and/or complementary foods for each feeding occasion. Infants' sweetness liking was studied in the laboratory at 3, 6 and 12 months of age by assessing their response to a lactose-water solution and the amount drunk of this solution compared with plain water. Linear regressions and structural equation model assessed associations between exposure to and liking for sweetness at 6 and 12 months. Neither at 6 (n 182) nor at 12 months (n 197) was sweetness exposure associated with sweetness liking. While sweetness liking at 3 months was unrelated to liking at 6 months, the latter predicted sweetness liking at 12 months. These findings demonstrate no association between sweetness exposure at 3 to 12 months and liking at 6 and 12 months despite a sharp increase in sweetness exposure in that period. However, sweetness liking at 6 and 12 months was positively associated.

Keywords: Birth cohort; Children; Infants; Longitudinal; Sugar; Sweetness exposure; Sweetness liking; Sweetness preference.