Listening Topic: Food Science – Lecture about taste in food

A. Listen to the lecture about food tastes. Note which topics below are discussed in the lecture.

___  Babies and taste

___  Food cravings

___  Nutrition in different countries

___  Food preferences in different countries

___  Why some people don’t eat breakfast

___  Why some people like bitter-tasting food

B. Listen to the lecture again. Choose the correct answer to complete each statement. Listen again if necessary.

1   According to the “wisdom of the body” theory, we want certain food because ____.

      a   we need the nutrients

      b   we like the taste

      c   we need the nutrients and we like the taste

2   The “wisdom of the body” theory doesn’t fully explain our eating habits, because ____.

      a   different people like different foods

      b   people have different ideas about nutrition

      c   we often eat food low in nutrition and don’t like food high in nutrition

3   Babies prefer sweet drinks ____.

      a   about three days after they are born

      b   on the day they are born

      c   on their first birthday

4   Babies don’t mind the pain of an injection as much if ____.

      a   they have something to eat before the shot

      b   they have some sugar before the shot

      c   they have some sugar after the shot

5   According to a recent study, children aged five to nine years old ____.

      a   like the flavor of citric acid

      b   can’t taste citric acid

      c   dislike the flavor of citric acid

6   ____ don’t usually like bitter flavors.

      a   Children

      b   Pregnant women

      c   Children and pregnant women

7   A study showed that if a woman drank carrot juice when she was pregnant, her baby ____.

      a   wouldn’t like carrot-flavored cereal

      b   would like carrot-flavored cereal more than other babies

      c   would like carrot-flavored cereal as much as other babies

8   A study on cravings found that ____.

      a   women everywhere crave chocolate

      b   men and women in Egypt crave chocolate

      c   there are cultural differences in who craves chocolate



1 ✓   2 ✓   4 ✓   6


1 c   2 c   3 b   4 b   5 a   6 c   7 b   8 c


For many years, scientists have believed in the “wisdom of the body,” the idea that our bodies know what they need to stay healthy. So, by this theory, when we’re hungry for a certain food, it’s just our bodies letting us know that we need a specific nutrient. For example, you might crave steak because you need protein.

But this idea doesn’t cover the reality of our eating habits. So much of what we love to eat – think of cookies or French fries – doesn’t offer much nutrition. And many people don’t like foods that offer lots of vitamins – think of spinach or broccoli. So, the idea that eating only supports life doesn’t really offer a full explanation of our eating patterns.

For a long time, there was a lot about our eating habits that was not fully understood by scientists, but in the last few years, new studies have given researchers more information.

One discovery is that humans are born loving sweetness. On its first day of life, a newborn baby will prefer sweetened drinks to unsweetened ones. Sugar can even block out pain. Doctors have found that babies won’t mind the pain of a needle for an injection as much if they are given some sugar beforehand.

Then there are sour tastes. It’s often surprising how much young children love sour flavors. Think of how many kinds of candy for children with really sour flavors there are: lemon, sour apple, and so on. Candy companies must have realized this a while ago, but it was only recently that science confirmed it. A study found that children between the ages of five and nine years old actually enjoy the flavor of concentrated citric acid, and citric acid makes things sour.

In contrast, bitter flavors are mainly appreciated by older adults. Children and pregnant women usually dislike bitter tastes. This is probably because bitterness can be a sign of toxicity – that something could be harmful – which would be more important during times of growth and development.

However, as people get older, they often develop more of a taste for foods with a little bitterness. Scientists think this could make sense because foods like broccoli or dark chocolate – both of which have a slightly bitter flavor – usually also contain antioxidants that help fight diseases like cancer.

So there are similarities in taste preferences, but then why are our individual preferences so different? One explanation is that our preferences are shaped by our flavor experiences at a very early age, including before we’re born. For example, one study found that if a pregnant woman drank carrot juice late in pregnancy, her six-month-old baby liked carrot-flavored cereal more than other six-month-old babies.

Another area of difference involves food cravings – intense and specific desires for a certain food. Scientists now believe these are also probably more related to childhood and culture than to some kind of biological need for vitamins.

A study by psychologists on three continents – in the countries of Egypt, Spain, and the United States – looked at cravings by both men and women. Before the study, one assumption was that women universally crave chocolate, however, while the study found that women often crave sweeter food than men, there were differences regarding chocolate. In Spain, both men and women were found to crave chocolate. But in Egypt, only six percent of women named chocolate as a favorite food. So a conclusion is that cravings are not universal or based on biology, but are more the result of our cultural experiences with food.

Now family and culture don’t explain all of our individual differences in food preferences. Obviously, there are people who have dramatically different preferences from their parents. So there’s still more to learn. Scientists are now paying a lot more attention to the psychology of food choice. They may find that what we think about food could turn out to be as important as what we actually put in our mouths and eat.

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