The Development of Flavour Perception and Acceptance: The Roles of Nature and Nurture

Speaker: C. Forestell Presented at: 2014 85th Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop

Summary

Catherine Forestell (The College of William & Mary, USA) spoke of infant acquisition of flavour/taste perception, which is well developed by the third trimester of pregnancy. At birth, the newborn is sensitive to basic tastes and quickly develops a preference for sweet solutions. This remains heightened throughout childhood and only decreases during late adolescence. In contrast, the infant at birth shows aversive responses to bitter and sour tastes, reflecting an innate biology. However, early experiences are important for fine-tuning innate sensory responses and contribute to individual differences in perception and acceptance. The wide range of odour volatiles encountered in amniotic fluid and breast milk reflects the mother’s cuisine and culture, with breast milk providing continuity between pre- and postnatal experiences. This confers an advantage for initial acceptance of new flavour profiles associated with fruit and vegetables provided the mother is herself consuming a healthful diet.