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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;24(3):219-30. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2012.675573.

Diet, sensitive periods in flavour learning, and growth.

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  • 1Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA. trabulsi@udel.edu

Abstract

Diet in early infancy has an impact on early growth and the formation of flavour preferences, as well as on later life health outcomes. Although breast milk is the preferred source of nutrition during infancy, more than half of American infants receive infant formula by the age of 4 months. As a group, formula-fed infants weigh more by the age of one year and have a greater risk for later obesity than breastfed infants. However, a recent randomized study found that, when compared to breastfed infants, infants fed an extensively hydrolysed protein formula (ePHF) had more normative weight gain velocity than infants fed cow's milk formula (CMF). Therefore, grouping all formula-fed infants together with respect to certain health outcomes such as obesity may not be appropriate. Scientific evidence also suggests that there are sensitive periods for flavour learning. Infants become familiar with and learn to accept the flavours they experience through their mother's amniotic fluid and breast milk as well as formula. These early experiences influence flavour preferences of children that may affect food choices and therefore later life health. Further research on the influence of early diet on growth, flavour preferences, and food choices is imperative.

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