The first taste of life
One of the five senses, taste is a source of pleasure and sharing. It performs a variety of functions, often difficult to grasp.
Even before birth a baby can perceive - and enjoy - sweetness. Scientists have proved this by observing foetuses.
Innate or acquired ?
Researchers have discovered that the taste buds are already functioning from the third trimester of pregnancy. These enable the baby to recognise that the amniotic fluid tastes differentwhen the mother is given glucose.
The baby’s facial expression and behaviour changes in response tothe sweet flavour. How? The child swallows more often and may even give the ghost of a smile.
Sugar at birth, savoury later !
Newborn babies soon show a liking for sweet things but anaversion to salty, bitter or acid flavours. They will accept and swallow a drop of sweetened liquid placed on the tongue and will look relaxed and sometimes smile.
Do very young babies remember what happened in the womb ?
Later, through experience and upbringing they learn to appreciate other flavours.
Supported by the sugar sector, researchers in Dijon are exploring how newborns develop a preference for certain tastes at a very early stage (Opaline Study, Observatoire des Préférences Alimentaires du Nourisson et de l'Enfant).
Why is there always room for dessert ?
American researcher Barbara Rolls has discovered why children who don’t finish their spinach purée still have room for pudding... Quite simply, after the first few mouthfuls, the purée no longer stimulates a sense of pleasure. This is called the “specific sensory stimulation” effect.
Pudding, in contrast, has different taste qualities and stimulates other taste buds. It creates a new source of pleasure and stimulates the child’s appetite.
Children go from one source of stimulation to the next when they eat. This naturally encourages a varied diet. Specific sensory stimulation continues into adult life and helps us vary what we eat