Consuming a milk-exclusion diet in infancy alters bitter-taste perception

Taste preference, food neophobia and nutritional intake in children consuming a cows’ milk exclusion diet: a prospective study

Maslin et al., JHND Early View


Taste exposure in infancy is known to predict food preferences later in childhood. This is particularly relevant in children with cows’ milk allergy who consume a substitute formula and/or a cows’ milk exclusion (CME) diet early in life. This prospective study aimed to show whether there is a long-term effect of consuming a substitute formula and CME diet on taste preferences and dietary intake.


Children were predominantly recruited from two large birth cohort studies in the UK. Two groups were recruited: an experimental group of children who had consumed a CME diet during infancy and a control group who had consumed an unrestricted diet during infancy. Parents completed a food neophobia questionnaire and an estimated prospective food diary. Children completed a taste preference test and their growth was assessed.


One hundred and one children with a mean age of 11.5 years were recruited (28 CME and 73 controls). Children in the CME group had a significantly higher preference for bitter taste than those in the control group (P < 0.05). There were significant differences between the groups with respect to the intake of some micronutrients, including riboflavin, iodine, sodium and selenium. Food neophobia did not differ between groups. Some 28% of the CME group were overweight/obese compared to 15% of the control group; however, this difference was not statistically significant.


Consuming a substitute formula and/or a CME diet in infancy has a long-term effect on the preference for bitter taste. Differences exist with respect to the intake of some micronutrients, but not macronutrients. There was a nonsignificant trend towards being overweight and obese in children in the CME group.



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