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Salt Preferences in Foods May Start in the Crib

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If you’ve always had a savory tooth and craved salty snacks and foods, it may date far back in your personal history—perhaps to when you were in diapers. A study in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (95 [1], 123–29) suggests that you may have been conditioned as an infant to have a penchant for these flavor profiles based on what you were fed as a baby.

Six-month-old infants who have been introduced to starchy table foods—which often contain added salt—have a stronger preference for salty taste than do infants not yet eating these foods, says a press release from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where the research originated. Reflecting their greater liking for salty taste, the exposed infants consumed 55% more salt during a preference test than did infants not yet introduced to starchy foods.

At preschool age, the same infants were more likely to consume plain salt, demonstrating the enduring influence of early dietary exposure. The findings highlight the potentially significant role of early dietary experience in shaping the taste preferences of infants and young children. “More and more evidence is showing us that the first months of life constitute a sensitive period for shaping flavor preferences,” said lead author Leslie J. Stein, PhD, a physiological psychologist at Monell.

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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