Fetuses are big fans of carrots, but not green leafy vegetables — and it shows on their faces, scientists said in a new study published Thursday.
Researchers at Durham University in northeast England said the findings were the first direct evidence that babies react differently to different smells and tastes before they are born.
A team of scientists studied 4D ultrasound scans of 100 pregnant women and found that babies exposed to carrot flavors exhibited “smiley-face” responses.
Those exposed to kale flavors, on the other hand, showed more “cry face” responses.
Postgraduate study lead researcher Beyza Ustun said: “A number of studies have suggested that babies can taste and smell in the womb, but are based on outcomes after birth, whereas our study is the first to look at these reactions before birth .
“Consequently, we believe that this repeated exposure to flavors before birth could help establish food preferences after birth, which could be important when considering healthy eating messages and the potential to avoid ‘food loading’ “at weaning”.
Humans experience aroma through a combination of taste and smell.
In fetuses, it is believed that this could happen by inhaling and swallowing amniotic fluid in the womb.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, included scientists from Durham’s Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab and Aston University in Birmingham, central England.
A team from the National Center for Scientific Research in Burgundy, France was also involved.
The teams believe the findings could deepen understanding of the development of human taste and smell receptors, as well as perception and memory.
Research co-author Professor Jackie Blissett, of Aston University, said: “It could be argued that repeated exposures to prenatal aromas can lead to preferences for those aromas experienced postnatally.
“In other words, exposing the fetus to less ‘palatable’ flavors like kale could mean they get used to those flavors in utero.
“The next step is to examine whether fetuses show fewer ‘negative’ responses to these flavors over time, leading to greater acceptance of these flavors when babies first taste them outside the womb.
Source : www.cbsnews.com