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First flavors form a lasting impression

Philadelphia, PA -- Ever wonder why your child loves to eat macaroni and cheese while her best friend likes nothing better than a steaming bowl of cauliflower curry? The answer may lie in part with what they were fed as young infants. Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia report that feeding experiences during the first seven months of life may contribute to food likes and dislikes.

"This research may help us to understand early factors involved in human food preferences and diet choice, an area with many important health implications. We can explore these early influences systematically by studying infants who are breastfeeding, as well as babies whose parents have decided to formula-feed," explains study lead author Julie Mennella, PhD.

As part of a research program aimed at understanding the underlying basis for individual food differences, the Monell researchers compared flavor preferences of bottle-fed infants raised on two different types of commercially-available infant formula. One was a standard milk-based formula. The second formula is called a protein hydrolysate because the proteins are 'pre-digested' to help babies absorb them more easily. The two formulas are similar nutritionally but differ markedly with regard to flavor: milk-based formulas are described as bland and cereal-like, while hydrolysates taste exceedingly unpleasant to most adults, bitter and sour with a horrible after-taste.

In the study, reported in the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics, 53 babies were fed one of the two infant formulas for seven months. Starting at about two weeks of age, one group was fed only the standard formula while a second group received only the hydrolysate formula. Two additional groups combined three months of hydrolysate feeding, introduced at different times, with four months of standard formula. Because infants accept hydrolysate formulas readily during the first four months of life, all babies were
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Contact: Julie Mennella
mennella@monell.org
215-898-9230
Monell Chemical Senses Center
5-Apr-2004


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