Food and Behaviour Research

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Flavor variety enhances food acceptance in formula-fed infants

Gerrish, C.J., Mennella, J.A. (2001) Am J Clin Nutr 73(6) 1080-5. 

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BACKGROUND: Research in humans and animal models suggests that acceptance of solid foods by infants during weaning is enhanced by early experiences with flavor variety.

OBJECTIVE: We tested the hypotheses that the acceptance of novel foods by formula-fed infants could be facilitated by providing the infants with a variety of flavors at the time when beikost is first introduced and that, contrary to medical lore, infants who had previously consumed fruit would be less likely to reject vegetables when first introduced than would infants without such an experience.

DESIGN: The infants' acceptance of a novel vegetable (pureed carrot) and a novel meat (pureed chicken) was evaluated after a 9-d exposure period in 3 groups of infants, some of whom had previously consumed fruit. During the home-exposure period, one group was fed only carrots, the target vegetable; a second group was fed only potatoes, a vegetable that differed in flavor from carrots; and a third group was fed a variety of vegetables that did not include carrots.

RESULTS: Infants fed either carrots or a variety of vegetables, but not those fed potatoes, ate significantly more of the carrots after the exposure period. Exposure to a variety of vegetables also facilitated the acceptance of the novel food, pureed chicken, and daily experience with fruit enhanced the infants' initial acceptance of carrots.

CONCLUSION: These findings are the first experimental evidence to indicate that exposure to a variety of flavors enhances acceptance of novel foods in human infants.