[Gustatory perceptions in children]
Sommaire de l'article
As soon as the end of gestation, the gustatory system is stimulated by the taste-active compounds carried by the amniotic fluid and its maturation continues until mid-childhood. Facial expressions and relative ingestion methods show that the newborn can discriminate the various taste qualities (bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami). The range of individual responses is wide. Neonatal reactions to sweet and umami are generally considered to express pleasure. The bitter and sour stimulations lead to hedonically negative reactions. The response to salt taste is less characteristic. Overall, the attraction towards sweet and the rejection of bitter and sour tastes become more pronounced during childhood but tend to decrease in adult life. The early attraction to sweetness is reinforced by exposure to sweet stimulations. With age, the response to salt evolves towards attraction which intensity is dependent on the context and on postnatal exposures to salt. The link between gustatory sensitivity to sweet, salty and sour stimuli and food preferences is far from being clear; the sensitivity to bitter taste better explains the rejection of bitter foods, such as vegetables for instance. The development of gustatory perceptions partly depends upon experience. A better knowledge of the role of experience could help to improve the orientation and the efficacy of nutritionally-oriented food education strategies.
[Article in French]