Suprathreshold measures of taste perception in children – Association with dietary quality and body weight

Type Article

Journal Article


E. L. Feeney; S. A. O'Brien; A. G. Scannell; A. Markey; E. R. Gibney

Year of publication










Childhood obesity is an increasing problem in the Western world, and is affected by a multitude of interacting factors. Recent evidence suggests that taste perception may differ between obese and normal weight children. Evidence also suggests that perception of sweet and bitter taste is linked to differential food liking of various foods. To date, most studies have focused on single food items or food groups, rather than an overall view of dietary quality, and mainly on bitterness. Thus it is unclear whether taste perception is associated with dietary quality in children. Our objective was to examine the link between taste perception, dietary quality and body weight in Irish school children, in conjunction with other known influences of body weight. Taste perception was measured using the gLMS for bitter, salty and sweet stimuli. Detailed dietary intake data were collected from 525 children aged 7-13 via a 3-day diet history. Energy misreporters were identified and excluded from the dietary analyses, leaving n = 483 children. Dietary quality was assessed using Healthy Eating Index. Salivary DNA was collected and analyzed for variations in the bitter receptor gene TAS2R38. Sex differences were observed whereby intensity perception of sweetness was lower in the overweight/obese males, while no association was observed for sweet taste in the females. Despite the differences in weight status, taste perception was not associated with differences in overall dietary quality, measured via HEI score, in this cohort. Prospective cohort studies in children are necessary to better understand the association between taste intensity, food intake and weight over time.