According to the researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, babies who were born to mothers consuming a wide variety of foods in their diets were more open to a wide range of flavors. In other words, their mothers diet greatly influenced their own, even before birth.
One of America’s greatest problems is obesity and according to the results of this study, the solution may involve early childhood and pre-delivery.
The study also revealed that after being weaned, babies who continued to eat that same diet tended to take those preferences with them into adulthood. Taste preferences that were cultivated in infancy had lasting effects throughout life. Researchers also found that changing preferences beyond toddlerhood was very difficult.
“What’s really interesting about children is, the preferences they form during the first years of life actually predict what they’ll eat later,” said Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at the Monell Center. “Dietary patterns track from early to later childhood but once they are formed, once they get older, it’s really difficult to change — witness how hard it is to change the adult. You can, but it’s just harder. Where you start, is where you end up.”
Researchers were able to identify 3 crucial periods of time where children are influenced by what their mother consumes. The first is before they are three and a half months old. While pregnant and breastfeeding a mother’s diet plays a strong role in determining tastes and range of flavors.
“Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”
What about babies who are fed formula? Well, while they are at a disadvantage (since their flavors will be consistently the same) you still have a chance to introduce a variety of flavors to them. Repeated exposure to new flavors as soon as possible will help widen their palate.
In summary, a child’s taste buds are developed by 3 months. A narrow diet (formula – narrow range of flavor) limits their ability to accept new food. LOTS of sweets (fruit loops, cheetos, nutella) during pregnancy desensitizes the child to sweets, so they need more to satisfy themselves.