"This means that flavour preferences are influenced by cultural factors, but we also see that these tastes are developed in a similar way as children grow up", stated Anne Lanfer, the study's main author and researcher at the Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen (Germany). Thus, in all eight countries the older children had a higher preference for sugar and salt than the younger ones.
The research team also assessed whether tastes varied according to the child's gender, taste threshold, parent's level of education, feeding patterns during their early years, time spent watching television and parents' use of food as a reward.
The results showed that there was no link between these factors and the preference for sugar, fat, salt and umami among the children, despite the fact that an influence on flavour preference had previously been attributed to such factors.
The researchers believe the study has important implications. "There is a tendency to undertake uniform dietary prevention programmes across European countries. However, flavour preferences vary from one country to another and the same programme will not be equally effective in all countries," Lanfer pointed out.
For example, promoting the consumption and distribution of apple juice with no added sugar would be more effective in Germany, where there is a high level of acceptance, than in Hungary, where the majority of children prefer juice with added sugar. Furthermore, knowing that children's preferences change as they grow older, "there is still hope that children's flavour preferences are not stable and can be influenced by their parents and the surrounding environment", the authors concluded.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology