Changes in taste threshold, perceived intensity, liking and preference in pregnant women: a literature review

Title: Changes in taste threshold, perceived intensity, liking and preference in pregnant women: a literature review

Authors: Hugo Weenen, Annemarie Olsen, Evangelia Nanou, Esmée Moreau, Smita Nambiar, Carel Vereijken, Leilani Muhardi
Published: 2018

Chemosensory Perception

Due to the rapid development of the foetus, pregnant women have specific nutritional needs (e.g. higher needs of iron, vitamin D). Dietary surveys show that it is not easy for pregnant women to adequately adapt their diets, and as a consequence, nutritional deficiencies are quite common amongst pregnant women. To understand better why pregnant women have difficulties to adapt their diets, we reviewed the literature on changes in taste threshold, perceived intensity, liking and preference during pregnancy, because such changes have the potential to negatively impact nutrient intake in pregnant women.


Fourteen articles met the inclusion criteria and addressed sweet, salty, sour and bitter, not umami. Many women experienced some taste changes during pregnancy based on self-reports, while changes based on studies with real-stimuli were limited. Studies on taste thresholds suggested that changes were mainly in the first trimester when women were found to have a higher taste threshold for bitterness.

For perceived intensity measurements with real stimuli, no consistent differences between pregnant women and controls were reported. Over the course of pregnancy the only consistent change was that salty intensity seemed to decrease.

Studies on liking and preference indicated that pregnant women liked saltiness more than non-pregnant women, at least for higher saltiness levels. Preference was also for higher salty intensities and more salty snacks were consumed during pregnancy than after pregnancy. These effects seem to be more prominent in the second and/or third trimester. For sweet taste, drinks with lower sweetness were preferred and intake of sweet snack foods was the highest in the second trimester. Other differences were not observed or not consistent.

Many women experienced a higher threshold for bitter perception in the first trimester, a preference for lower sweet drinks during pregnancy, a higher preference for sweet snacks in the 2nd trimester and higher saltiness appetite in the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, all of which may have nutritional consequences.

Learn more about the publication here.

Reference: Chemosensory Perception