Today, we can easily find snacks for children and processed baby food at convenience stores and supermarkets so children of the present-day have a lot of opportunities to eat processed food in addition to handmade food. Even baby foods contain a lot of additives!! I have a concern about it and did some research on it.
Food experience in the first three years of life to be the foundation of taste preferences across a lifetime
In 2012, the research group of Tokyo Medical and Dental University conducted the research on taste perception which the subjects were 349 primary and junior high school students (from first grader to eighth grader). The taste tests used four tastes; “sourness”, “saltiness”, “sweetness”, “bitterness” and the result was that 31% of children were not able to recognize any of these tastes.
It is pointed out that the result is caused by daily eating habit such as lacking intake of vegetable and junk food preference.
Taste preferences of adults vary and the foundation of it was developed during childhood. It is said that “sense of taste which was cultivated in the first three years of life to be the foundation of taste preferences across a lifetime,” in other words, mothers assume the greater responsibility for food experience of children.
Sense of taste if the essential ability to live
Aforementioned four testes, “sourness”, “saltiness”, “sweetness”, “bitterness” play important role in order for human being to survive.
“Sourness” can tell us rotten food or food has started to decompose, “saltiness” tells that foods which are necessary for us contain minerals, “sweetness” tells us the presence of sugars which is the source of our energy and “bitterness” can tell us to avoid accidental poisoning.
In other words, healthy sense of tastes not only tell us poisonous food or rotten food but also foods that contain nutrition we should preferentially intake. It is thus that sense of tastes is the essential ability to live but common intake of unhealthy processed food and junk food interfere with development of healthy sense of tastes.
Development of sense of tastes begin when babies are in mother’s stomach!
“Taste buds” are sensory organs that are found on our tongue and allow us to experience tastes and it is said that taste buds of babies begin forming at week 7 of pregnancy. Taste system of human being highly develops while babies are in mother’s stomach and the development will continue after babies are born.
Sense of tastes would change depending on what babies’ intake those of any taste in the course of its development and it is said that individual differences in preference of taste will appear at two to three months old babies. It is thus considered that foods mothers eat during pregnancy influence food that babies will like for years to come.
In the beginning, babies have no preferences of tastes. Sense of tastes will develop various directions and individual differences in preference of taste depending on what kind of stimulus to receive (what flavors to experience)
Impact of processed food and junk food on development of sense of taste
Because the process of establishment of taste is very complicated, it is crucial for children to experience with various flavors of raw materials (to give them stimulus of various flavors). Since we tend to feel safe and good about foods we have been eating from childhood, I personally feel that it is important for those who live in Japan to provide children to have many experiences with flavors of handmade Japanese cuisine at earlier stage of life in order for them to form sense of tastes of Japanese.
However, if children are given more opportunities to have processed foods, junk foods and additive flavored foods, their sense of tastes will used to the stimulus from those type of foods and they would not be satisfied with natural flavor of raw materials or tastes of handmade and as a result, their sense of taste will naturally develop to prefer processed foods and junk foods.
Impact of poor dietary eating habits…
According to David L. Katz, MD of Yale University School of Medicine, “poor dietary eating habits give more negative impact to children than drinking, drug use and smoking.”
What kind of foods to eat during childhood is crucial for healthy development of children’s sense of tastes and dietary eating habits which stimulate healthy development of sense of tastes are essential for children’s health.
Years of day-to-day diet will lead to development of children and their future. My child will start solids soon. I will try my best to create bright future for my children by providing safe handmade food for them.
・NIKKEI DUAL issued on May 14, 2015 Proposal by Japanese Society of Pediatric Dentistry
・“What your pediatrician doesn’t know can hurt your child” by Susan Markel, MD published by Soshisha in 2012
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