Sweet and sour taste preferences of children

D.G. Liem

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


In the industrialized countries children have many foods to choose from, both healthy and unhealthy products, these choices mainly depend on children's taste preferences. The present thesis focused on preferences for sweet and sour taste of young children (4- to 12-years of age) living in the US and the Netherlands. Understanding how sweet and sour taste preferences are formed and modified can help health professionals and those working in industry, to develop strategies to decrease the consumption of sweet tasting foods and to increase the variety of children's diet with sour tasting foods. By using a variety of stimuli that differed in sweet (0.14M - 0.61M sucrose) and sour (0.00M - 0.25M citric acid) taste we investigated 1) how sweet and sour taste preferences of young children can be measured 2) which concentrations of sucrose and citric acid are most preferred 3) how repeated exposure modifies preferences and 4) how these preferences are related to oral physiological processes and food consumption. From the 7 studies we carried out it can be concluded that sweet and sour taste preferences of young children can consistently be measured with paired comparison and rank-order methods. Children prefer beverages with high concentrations of sucrose (0.61M) and a substantial part of children have a preference for extreme sour foods (0.08-0.25M citric acid). The later is related to intensity and novelty seeking behavior and consumption of fruits rather than oral physiological differences. Preferences for sour taste are related to exposure to sour taste during infancy and can not easily be changed by short repeated exposure during childhood. This is in contrast with preference for sweet taste, which can be heightened by a short repeated exposure during childhood. The knowledge gained by the present thesis may open the window to low-sweet and high-sour foods. This could be beneficial for fruit consumption and the dietary variety during childhood.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Kok, Frans, Promotor
  • de Graaf, Kees, Co-promotor
Award date2 Nov 2004
Place of Publication[S.I.]
Print ISBNs9789085041054
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2004


  • consumption patterns
  • children
  • food preferences
  • tastes
  • taste sensitivity
  • organolepsis
  • sweetness
  • acidity
  • flavour


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