SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
Sweet Taste Detection and Preference in Children vs. Adults
Sara Petty1, Clara Salame1, Julie A. Mennella2, M. Yanina Pepino1
1University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, United States
2Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA, United States

Adults and children might live in different sensory worlds. In particular, children prefer sweeter substances than adults do. This may be related to their increased energy need in periods of maximal growth and development. However, there is limited published data that uses the same methods to compare the taste worlds of children and adults, particularly with respect to taste sensitivity. Here we compared data collected from children aged 7-18yrs. (n=182) to data collected from several studies in adults aged 21-67yrs. (n=117) using identical, validated, methods.  We assessed sucrose detection thresholds by using a two-alternative, forced-choice paired comparison tracking procedure, and sucrose preference with the Monell 2-series, forced-choice tracking method. We found that sucrose detection thresholds were higher in children than adults (log means of -2.04±0.03 vs. -2.18±0.04 in children vs. adult respectively; ~9.2mM vs. 6.7mM sucrose; p<.01). As expected, children preferred higher sucrose concentrations than adults (595 ±22 mM vs. 433 ±27 mM; p<.0001). Sucrose detection threshold were not correlated to sucrose preference in either group (children, r=0.013; adults, r=0.166 both P’s>0.05). Our results indicate that children are less sensitive to detect sucrose than adults are, and confirms previous findings that children prefer higher concentrations of sucrose. However, sucrose detection thresholds did not predict preference, and therefore children's preference for heightened sucrose concentrations cannot be explained by a reduced sucrose sensitivity at detection levels. Further understanding of children’s taste perception world can help to contribute to the understanding of the motivations behind food choices made by children and their potential nutritional implications.