Modification of bitter taste in children

Julie A. Mennella, M. Yanina Pepino, Gary K. Beauchamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The palatability of oral medications, many of which are quite bitter, plays an important role in achieving compliance in pediatric patients. We tested the hypothesis that the addition of a sodium salt to some, but not all, bitter tasting liquids enhances acceptance and reduces the perceived bitterness in 7- to 10-year-old children and their mothers. For both children and adults, sodium gluconate significantly suppressed the perceived bitterness and enhanced the acceptance of urea and caffeine whereas the reverse was true for another bitter stimulus, Tetralone. Because children preferred salted solutions more than did adults, these data suggest that the use of sodium salts may be an especially effective strategy for reducing the bitterness of some medicines and facilitating compliance among pediatric populations. However, based on sodium's differential ability to inhibit bitterness, as has been shown here with children and adults, clearly each drug of interest must be evaluated separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bitter
  • Children
  • Preference
  • Salts
  • Taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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