Improving medicine acceptance in kids: A matter of taste

July 24, 2013

Despite major advances in the pharmaceutical treatment of disease, many children reject medicines due to an aversion to bitter taste. As such, bitterness presents a key obstacle to the acceptance and effectiveness of beneficial drugs by children worldwide.

A new review, published online ahead of print in Clinical Therapeutics, addresses this critical problem by highlighting recent advances in the scientific understanding of , with special attention to the sensory world of children.

Written by an interdisciplinary team of leading taste scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Florida State University, and the University of Washington, the paper focuses on applying this knowledge to improve drug acceptance and compliance in pediatric populations.

Several highlight the importance of understanding bitter taste to the successful formulation of pediatric medications. Bitter taste is thought to have evolved as a protection against toxins, as many poisons taste bitter. Because of this, it is very difficult to disguise or mask .

Compounding this problem is the fact that children, who are especially sensitive to bitterness, cannot swallow pills or tablets, which encapsulate bitterness in adult formulations.

The state-of-the-science review summarizes current knowledge on how bitter taste works from a biological perspective. In addition, the paper provides a comprehensive overview of methods used to assess taste responses in children. The authors point out critical gaps in the existing understanding of how best to measure bitterness in children, whose cognitive and perceptual abilities differ from those of adults.

"The problems associated with pediatric drug formulations are enormous and can hinder optimal therapeutic outcomes," said lead author Julie Mennella, PhD, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell. "Both the complexity of bitter taste and the unique sensory world of children contribute to this critical issue."

Explore further: Food peptides activate bitter taste receptors

Related Stories

Food peptides activate bitter taste receptors

January 22, 2008

Researchers from the Monell Center and Tokyo University of Agriculture have used a novel molecular method to identify chemical compounds from common foods that activate human bitter taste receptors.

Helping the medicine go down

August 21, 2008

Getting little Doug and Debbie to take a spoonful of medicine is more than just a rite of passage for frustrated parents. Children's refusal to swallow liquid medication — and their tendency to vomit it back up — is an ...

The taste of quinine: It's in your bitter genes

August 2, 2010

Some people find quinine to be bitter while others can drink it like water. Now, scientists from the Monell Center and collaborators report that individual differences in how people experience quinine's bitterness are related ...

New bitter blocker discovered

June 2, 2011

Although bitterness can sometimes be desirable – such as in the taste of coffee or chocolate – more often bitter taste causes rejection that can interfere with food selection, nutrition and therapeutic compliance. ...

Bitter taste receptors for Stevia sweeteners discovered

May 31, 2012

Stevia is regarded as a healthy alternative to sugar. Yet there are drawbacks to the Stevia products recently approved as sweeteners by the European Union. One of these is a long-lasting bitter after-taste. Scientists at ...

Recommended for you

In cells, some oxidants are needed

August 18, 2016

Within our bodies, high levels of reactive forms of oxygen can damage proteins and contribute to diabetic complications and many other diseases. But some studies are showing that these reactive oxygen species (ROS) molecules ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.