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Body teaches children to prefer fats.

Children are born liking sweets (SN: 2/15/92, p.110), but they quickly learn to also enjoy "energy-dense" foods - generally, those high in fat. Luckily for nutrition-conscious parents, children also learn to like low-fat foods if they are exposed to them often enough, says Leann L. Birch, a psychologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

In their efforts to understand why children choose to eat the foods they do, Birch, Deborah L. Kern of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and their colleagues evaluated the taste preferences of 27 children between the ages of 3 and 4. Twice a week for six weeks, scientists asked one subset of the children to drink yogurt shakes of different flavors and fat contents. One day during the week, the children received fat-free yogurt containing 66 calories; on the other, they consumed yogurt with 18 grams of fat and 228 calories. Before and several times during the test period, the researchers asked the children which flavors they preferred. A second group of kids tasted different-flavored yogurts but did not actually eat them.

"We see very clearly that children learn to prefer the flavors that are paired with high energy densities," says Birch. "[This] helps us understand why reducing dietary fats is so difficult."

The children who only tasted the yogurts, however, began to like the more familiar flavors better regardless of the calorie content, indicating that repeated exposure to foods can increase acceptance of them, adds Birch. She suggests that parents try to offer low-fat foods and snacks frequently to their children.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 10, 1993
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