Changes in Taste Threshold, Perceived Intensity, Liking, and Preference in Pregnant Women: a Literature Review

Abstract

Introduction

Studies of changes in taste threshold, perceived intensity, liking, and preference during pregnancy were reviewed, because such changes have the potential to negatively impact nutrient intake in pregnant women.

Methods

Medline and Web of Science were searched; eligibility was based on inclusion, exclusion, and quality criteria.

Results

Fourteen articles were included: 5 reported taste thresholds, 8 taste intensity, and 13 liking/preferences. Articles addressed sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, not umami. Results of self-reported changes suggested that many women experienced some sort of alteration in taste during pregnancy. Studies with real stimuli demonstrated that the only consistent finding for taste thresholds was that pregnant women showed higher thresholds for bitterness in their first trimester. For taste intensity, no consistent differences between pregnant women and controls were observed. However, over the course of pregnancy, salty intensity seemed to decrease, the intensity of other tastes did not change. During pregnancy, higher saltiness was liked more and salty snacks were consumed more, particularly in the second and/or third trimester. Drinks with lower sweetness were preferred and intake of sweet snacks was highest in the second trimester. Preference for sour and bitter did not seem to be affected.

Conclusion

Self-reports suggested that many women experienced some taste changes during pregnancy, while changes based on studies with real stimuli were limited.

Implications

Many women experienced a higher threshold for bitter perception in the first trimester, a preference for sweet snacks in the second trimester, and higher saltiness appetite in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, which may have nutritional consequences.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Adeline Kartika Putri for her support in refining the search terms and retrieving literature for this review.

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Correspondence to Hugo Weenen.

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Conflict of Interest

Hugo Weenen, Smita Nambiar, Carel Vereijken, and Leilani Muhardi are employees of Danone Nutricia Research, Evangelia Nanou and Esmée Moreau were student trainees at Danone Nutricia Research when they contributed to this review. Annemarie Olsen has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors of this review, for which no ethical approval had been obtained previously.

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Weenen, H., Olsen, A., Nanou, E. et al. Changes in Taste Threshold, Perceived Intensity, Liking, and Preference in Pregnant Women: a Literature Review. Chem. Percept. 12, 1–17 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-018-9246-x

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Keywords

  • Pregnancy
  • Taste
  • Threshold
  • Intensity
  • Liking
  • Preference