Children smile at carrots and rub other leaves in the womb
Children smile at carrots and rub other leaves in the womb

Children smile at carrots and rub other leaves in the womb

Fetuses in the womb ate after their mothers ate leaves but smiled after eating carrots, according to a new study of about 100 pregnant women and their fetuses in England.

The study provides a rare look at how the fetus responds to taste in real time.

The researchers gave the female participants capsules containing powdered versions of both meals. Thirty-five women ate the equivalent of one medium carrot, and 34 women ate the equivalent of 100 grams of chopped kale. None of the remaining 30 women ate.

Twenty minutes later, the ultrasound scan showed that most of the fetuses exposed to the other flavors looked sad, while most of the carrot exposure seemed to laugh. The control group, on the other hand, did not have the same responses.

Nadja Reissland, co-author of the study and head of fetal and neonatal research said: “We are the first to actually show the ultrasound image of the face in relation to the food that the mother has just eaten. ” Male of Durham University.

Previous research has shown that the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus can have a different smell or taste depending on the pregnant person’s diet.

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A 2001 study also found that babies who were exposed to the taste of carrots in amniotic fluid or breast milk showed a worse reaction to carrot-flavored cereal than babies who had not been exposed to it. But the study looked at the babies’ responses only outside the womb.

The fetuses in the new research were 32 to 36 weeks pregnant. (The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the last period.)

An image from the FETAP (Fetal Taste Preference) study showing adverse reactions to other tastes.
An image from the FETAP (Fetal Taste Preference) study showing adverse reactions to other tastes.Pregnancy and Infant Research Laboratory, Durham University

Ultrasound images suggest a reaction similar to that of children or adults who taste something bitter, Reissland said, but it is not known whether fetuses actually experience emotions or aversions in the same way.

The discomfort in the ultrasounds “may just be muscle activity that is reacting to a bitter taste,” Reissland said.

She added, however, that fetuses are known to make facial expressions.

“If you look from 24 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, their speech becomes more difficult,” Reissland said.

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Dr. Daniel Robinson, an associate professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new research, similarly cautioned that people should not interpret ultrasound images as an indication. fetal happiness or depression.

He noted, however, that “there is an idea that newborns and infants prefer sweet tastes, and there are developmental ideas behind it.”

For the new study design, Reissland and her team chose kale and carrot powder over juice or raw vegetables for several reasons. For one, the powder made it easier to ensure that each participant consumed the same number of calories. (The women were also asked not to eat anything containing carrots or fish on the day of the picture.)

Reissland said the capsules were also used because some pregnant women could not tolerate the other flavors, and researchers worried that their negative reactions might affect fetal responses.

“I’ve had a number of people in the lab, and I’ve tried giving them different juices to drink, and you should see the results,” Reissland said.

Third, the capsule helped prevent the taste from mixing too much during the body.

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“The bitter taste goes into the small intestine and then into the mother’s blood and then into the placenta and amniotic fluid,” Reissland said. “This process seems to take about 20 minutes, and what you get then is a specific fetal reaction to that taste.”

Reissland thinks her study could improve our understanding of how exposure to flavors in the womb affects eating habits later in life. If a fetus repeatedly tastes other fetuses, for example, that child may be able to tolerate – or even enjoy – the taste when it starts eating solid food.

Robinson said that scientists already know that exposure to different types of foods in the first months of life “can help with the desire or acceptance of foods later in life”.

“Nutrition during pregnancy is really important and affects the health of not only the developing fetus, but the future of that child,” he said.

Mothers who eat healthy foods during pregnancy may also find that their babies are fussy eaters, Reissland said.

“If we can actually get it [children] to like green vegetables and maybe not like sweets as much, it might help increase their weight and their weight,” she said.

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