Taste sensitivity, eating behavior, and body fatness of preschool children

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The possible relationship between body fatness and taste sensitivity was studied. Twenty-five preschool children aged 42 to 61 months served as subjects. Heights, weights, arm circumferences, and triceps skinfolds were measured. Taste sensitivity to quinine sulfate and sucrose was assessed with paired-comparison tests. Eating habits and food preferences were examined via questionnaires and two-day food records. Analysis of data was by simple correlations, means, and analysis of variance.

There appeared to be a relationship between taste sensitivity and body fatness. Weight-for-height percentiles were positively correlated with sensitivity to quinine sulfate (p < .05 ). There was a negative correlation between quinine sulfate and the Ponderal Index (p < . 05 ). Sensitivity to sucrose was negatively correlated with the Ponderal Index (p < .01). Subjects were distributed into two groups, those sensitive to quinine sulfate (taste threshold ceiling 2.03 X 10⁻⁵ M) and those insensitive to quinine sulfate (taste threshold ceiling non-existant ). There were significant differences between the two groups in terms of body fatness and percent of foods liked. More sensitive tasters liked fewer foods and had less body fat. Diet during infancy was not correlated with either taste sensitivity or body fatness. There was no relationship between the degree of body fatness and the percent of foods liked.

These results support the idea of a relationship between taste sensitivity and body fatness. Subjects more sensitive to taste appeared to have less body fat and to be more discriminating in their food choices than those subjects more insensitive to taste.