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How does taste develop in children?

A colloquium presenting the results of the OPALINE study (Observatory of the food preferences of infants and children) was held in Dijon on 18th and 19th October 2012.  This study, which aimed to understand how taste develops in children, had been undertaken since 2005 by the CSGA (Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour, INRA/CNRS/University of Burgundy), on a cohort of 300 pairs of mother/child between birth and the age of 2.  This study highlights the importance of the period between the start of food diversification up to the age of 2 in determining food preferences.  It also demonstrates the essential role played by eating practices in the family home.

Pleasure of family mealtime. © inra, Inra service audiovisuel
Updated on 08/26/2013
Published on 01/23/2013

While previous studies on the diet of infants and children focused mainly on milk and food composition, and on setting nutritional recommendations, OPALINE introduced a novel approach, this time focusing on how food was perceived and accepted by infants and children.  The objectives of OPALINE were to observe food preferences later on in life in order to determine how they originated, and understand how these preferences evolve and their impact on feeding behaviour.

OPALINE was a cohort study involving over 300 mother/child pairs gradually recruited since January 2005 from the 7th month of pregnancy onwards.  The children were followed initially up to the age of 2, and thereafter up to the age of 6.  A number of tools were devised for observing feeding behaviours, food preferences, sensory perception, or the family context of participants (weekly food intake, questionnaires, interviews…).

The colloquium, which took place on 18th and 19th October 2012 at the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour in Dijon, was organized to present the results of the OPALINE study and other research projects focusing on the early development of food preferences and feeding behaviour in children.  These findings include the role of feeding experiences and context in the early development of feeding behaviour, how olfactory and gustative perceptions affect the formation of feeding behaviour, and how parenting practices influence the feeding behaviour of their children.

The OPALINE study underlined how important the initial diversification stage is for forming food preferences up until 2 years old, as well as the essential role played by eating practices in the family home, i.e. the fundamental importance of tasting opportunities provided by parents together with family upbringing.  The child’s individual receptiveness to the smells and flavours of the foods proposed is also extremely important.

The OPALINE study was funded by INRA and Inserm in connection with the national Human Nutrition Research Programme, the National Research Agency in connection with the national Dietary Research Programme, by the Regional Council of Burgundy, by the CNRS and by the Food Quality unit of the Institut Fédératif de Recherche 92.  Sponsorship was also obtained for OPALINE from industrial partners : Blédina, CEDUS, Nestlé, Symrise and the Valrhona Foundation.  Lastly, OPALINE is certified by the VITAGORA ‘Taste, Nutrition, Health’ competitiveness cluster.


Details of the study : dossier OPALINE