New sensory methods for use in combination with body composition and biomarkers


Worldwide, the incidence of obesity is rapidly increasing. It shortens lifespans, leads to serious secondary diseases, and places a heavy burden on health budgets. A Health Perception Lab (HPL) pilot project is examining potential indicators for early childhood obesity in order to open up new methods of prevention.

A key question in obesity research is why some children get fat while others don't. That's why the HPL is examining pregnant women, and subsequently their new-born infants, to try to identify factors which can lead to overweight and obesity.

After an in-depth examination of the medical history, blood, faeces, and later mother's milk, are examined for biomarkers which may be related to obesity. Sensory tests determine mothers' preferred tastes, as well as their taste thresholds for sweet and salt. A standardised process is used to analyse the infant's facial expressions in order to determine its preferences for various sensory stimuli. Both mother and child are repeatedly examined, from the 24th week of pregnancy through to the infant's 16th week of life. Further data is provided by checking the infant's size and weight at the end of its first year.

The project plans to use the data it gathers to filter out those values which make it possible to predict a predisposition for obesity at an early stage.