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Chem Senses. 2003 Feb;28(2):173-80.

Heightened sour preferences during childhood.

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Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA.


Basic research has revealed that the chemical sensory world of children is different from that of adults, as evidenced by their heightened preferences for sweet and salty tastes. However, little is known about the ontogeny of sour taste preferences, despite the growing market of extreme sour candies. The present study investigated whether the level of sourness most preferred in a food matrix and the ability to discriminate differences in sour intensity differed between 5- to 9-year-old children and their mothers, by using a rank-by-elimination procedure embedded in the context of a game. Mothers also completed a variety of questionnaires and children were asked several questions to assess whether children's temperament and food preferences and habits related to sour preferences. The results indicated that, although every mother and all but two of the children (92%) were able to rank the gelatins from most to least sour, more than one-third (35%) of the children, but virtually none of the adults, preferred the high levels of sour taste (0.25 M citric acid) in gelatin. Those children who preferred the extreme sour tastes were significantly less food neophobic (P < 0.05) and tended to experience a greater variety of fruits when compared with the remaining children (P = 0.11). Moreover, the children's preference for sour tastes generalized to other foods, such as candies and lemons, as reported by both children and mothers. These findings are the first experimental evidence to demonstrate that sour taste preferences are heightened during childhood and that such preferences are related to children's food habits and preferences. Further research is needed to unfold the relationship between the level of sour taste preferred and the actual consumption of sour-tasting foods and flavors in children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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