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Annu Rev Nutr. 1999;19:41-62.

Development of food preferences.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


Using a developmental systems perspective, this review focuses on how genetic predispositions interact with aspects of the eating environment to produce phenotypic food preferences. Predispositions include the unlearned, reflexive reactions to basic tastes: the preference for sweet and salty tastes, and the rejection of sour and bitter tastes. Other predispositions are (a) the neophobic reaction to new foods and (b) the ability to learn food preferences based on associations with the contexts and consequences of eating various foods. Whether genetic predispositions are manifested in food preferences that foster healthy diets depends on the eating environment, including food availability and child-feeding practices of the adults. Unfortunately, in the United States today, the ready availability of energy-dense foods, high in sugar, fat, and salt, provides an eating environment that fosters food preferences inconsistent with dietary guidelines, which can promote excess weight gain and obesity.

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