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Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1999 Feb 6;129(5):176-81.

The flavor of life: perinatal development of odor and taste preferences.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico.


Despite the importance of chemosensation in the regulation of ingestive behavior, we still know surprisingly little about the development of the olfactory, trigeminal and gustatory systems. All three, however, are functional to some degree prenatally, and by birth infants are able to respond to a wide range of odors and can clearly distinguish between the tastes of sweet, sour and bitter. Based on findings from our work in the rabbit, we report that learning of odors associated with the mother's diet can occur very early in development, even prenatally, that it can have a long-term influence on later food choice, and may even lead to enhanced, stimulus-specific sensitivity of the basic sensory apparatus. Whether comparable phenomena exist in human infants is not known, although our recent findings that nationalities differ in judgements of the pleasantness of food odors depending on whether these are recognized as representing familiar, culture-typical foods, suggests that it might. A cross-cultural study is currently in progress examining the influence of culture-specific childhood eating experiences on adult preferences for food-associated odors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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