The flavors that each one prefers depend on the place where they were born
Until now, the scientific community thought that the foods that children like the most are chips, candies and sugary drinks, precisely the most detrimental to your health.
However, a new study, published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, concludes that this hypothesis is not entirely true after analyzing whether all children have the same preference for sugars and fats, considered promoters of overweight and obesity at all ages.
During the research, which is part of the Identification and Prevention of Diet and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children (IDEFICS) project, taste preferences were examined in more than 1,700 children between the ages of six and nine from eight European countries (Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Spain).
The authors determined, through sensory tests, the children’s tastes for fat, sugar, salt and monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer that corresponds to the fifth basic taste, called ‘umami’.
“The results were surprising,” explains Silvia Bel-Serrat, the only Spanish co-author of the study, who works at the University of Zaragoza, to SINC. “Although there is often a tendency to think that children share a common predisposition towards fats and sugars, it was observed that those from different countries did not have in any way similar preferences”.
Germans and Cypriots before cookies
More than 70% of German children preferred biscuits with added fats, compared to only 35% of Cypriots. By contrast, most Germans preferred the basic apple juice, while Swedish, Italian and Hungarian children preferred the option with added sugars or flavorings.
“This implies that taste preferences are influenced by cultural factors, but we also find that these tastes develop in a similar way as children get older”, says Anne Lanfer, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention in Bremen (Germany). So, in all eight countries older children had a greater preference for sugar and salt than younger ones.
As for Spanish children, 60% opted for apple juice with added sugar. Regarding cookies, 62% preferred the cookie with added fat and 70% chose the one with added salt over the basic one. “It should be noted that Spanish children were those who preferred the umami flavor to a greater degree (around 65%) compared to the rest of European children”estimates Bel-Serrat.
The research team also assessed whether tastes varied by the child’s gender, taste perception threshold, parents’ educational level, early eating patterns, TV viewing time, and TV use. of food as a reward from the parents.
The results showed that there was no relationship between these factors and the preference for sugar, fat, salt and umami among children; despite the fact that they had previously been attributed an influence on taste preferences.
fine tune prevention
For researchers, the study has important implications. “There is a tendency to carry out uniform dietary prevention programs in European countries. However, taste preferences vary by country and the same program will not be equally effective in all countries,” Lanfer notes.
For example, promoting the consumption and distribution of unsweetened apple juice would be more effective in Germany, where its acceptance is high, than in Hungary, where most children like juice with added sugar.
What’s more, knowing that children change their predilections as they get older, “there is still hope that children’s taste preferences are not stable and that they can be influenced by their parents and the environment around them”, conclude the authors.