Children’s Health Suffers From Bitter Medicine

Rebekah Eliason for – Your Universe Online

Although many advances have been made in the pharmacological treatment of disease, there is still the problematic issue of children rejecting medicine due to its typically unpleasant taste. Consequently, bitter medicine creates a worldwide obstacle affecting children’s health.

A new review from researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center, Florida State University and the University of Washington focuses on developments in the understanding of bitter taste, specifically the sensory function in children. The review aimed to apply this information to improve kid’s reception of and compliance with taking medicine.

By understanding several biological factors, scientists have gained a better understanding of what creates bitter taste, in order to successfully develop medicine that will be more palatable to children. Since many poisonous substances taste bitter, it is thought that the perception of bitter taste developed as a natural protection against ingesting harmful substances.

For adults, bitter tastes like those found in cough medicines are often avoided by encapsulating the substances, but children are hyper-sensitive to bitterness and are not able to swallow pills or capsules.

In this paper, the researchers summarize the biological perspective on how bitter taste functions. They also provide a detailed explanation of processes used to assess the taste responses of children. Authors of the paper highlight large gaps in the understanding of how to measure bitterness perception in children, who have different cognitive and perceptual abilities than adults.

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