Salt Increases Food Intake Among Toddlers

This study aims at evaluating the effect of sugar, fat or salt content on a child’s food preferences or habits. Researchers in France attempted to understand how changing levels of the above ingredients in toddlers’ food affected the food intake by the children. It was expected that the children would prefer food with high fat, sugar and salt content. However, only the levels of salt had a positive impact on the intake of food, while there was no impact of added fat or sugar.

Many countries have developed governmental policies aimed at decreasing the intake of salt-rich, fat-rich and sugar-rich foods. It has been well-established through previous studies that taste preferences in infants and young children are related to age. An early onset of preference for these tastes could become habitual at later stages. Thus, assessing the significance of each taste could help in curbing habitual patterns. Sadly, evidence of the impact of alterations in the regular food consumed by young children is unavailable. This study involves the analysis of the impact of altering the content of sugar, fat or salt in a child’s regular meal.

•    The study involved 74 toddlers with an average age of 30 months. The food was served to them in their nurseries, under normal conditions.
•    The regular content of fat and salt was 0.6 and 2.5 percent respectively. This was changed to zero (both fat and salt) and to 1.2 and 5 percent respectively to form three groups of food. For varying the sugar content in fruit puree, zero, 5 and 10 percent sugar was added to form three different groups.
•    A group of twelve adults evaluated the three types of each of the foods for “intensity” of their tastes.
•    Weighing the food prior to and after the lunch/snack assessed the amount of food consumed by the children.

•    The toddlers ate less food with lower salt and more food that had a higher salt concentration.
•    There was no preference of food with respect to different fat or the sugar content.
•    The panel of adult evaluators could differentiate the concentration of sugar, salt and fat in different foods with respect to the intensity of taste. Only in the case of different fat content in the green beans, they could not differentiate between the ones with 2.5 and 5 percent fat.

Shortcomings/Next steps
In this study, the children did not have an opportunity to compare or choose between the different types of food. If they had been able to compare foods with differing levels of sugar, fat and salt, the results may have been different. Nevertheless, the method used was closer to a normal experience of having a meal.

In the context of the problem of an alarming increase in childhood obesity, it is essential to account for the different senses of taste, in order to regulate diet. This study has proved a relationship between increased intake of food and salt content. However, contrary to general belief, there is no association between intake of foods and the content of fat or sugar in them. Hence, reducing sugar and fat in food would be tolerated by children and also reduce calories avoiding the development of a habit for these foods. Salt must be regulated too, but “seasoning vegetables using salt-associated spices may be an efficient and necessary strategy to promote their consumption in children.”

For More Information:
The Impact of Salt, Fat and Sugar Levels on Toddler Food Intake
Publication Journal: British Journal of Nutrition, August 2010
By Sofia Bouhlal; Sylvie Issanchou; Universite´ de Bourgogne, Dijon, France

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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