At the Monell Chemical Senses Center, scientists have found that kids who most prefer high levels of sweet tastes also most prefer high levels of salt taste and that, in general, children prefer sweeter and saltier tastes than adults do.
These preferences relate not only to food intake but also to measures of growth and can have important implications for efforts to change children's diets.
Many illnesses of modern society are related to poor food choices. Because children consume far more sugar and salt than recommended, which contributes to poor health, understanding the biology behind children's preferences for these tastes is a crucial first step to reducing their intake.
"Our research shows that the liking of salty and sweet tastes reflects in part the biology of the child," study lead author Julie Mennella, PhD, a biopsychologist at Monell said.
Biology predisposes us to like and consume calorie-rich sweet foods and sodium-rich salty foods, and this is especially true for children.
"Growing children's heightened preferences for sweet and salty tastes make them more vulnerable to the modern diet, which differs from the diet of our past, when salt and sugars were once rare and expensive commodities," she added.
The study is published online in PLOS ONE.