Fetuses smile for carrots but grimace for kale, study finds


Although some children are known to be not big fans of green vegetables, a new study suggests that such food preferences could arise before they are even born.

According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, fetuses create more of a “laughing face” in the womb when exposed to the flavor of carrots eaten by their mother and create more of a “crying” response when they are exposed to kale. Wednesday.

“We decided to do this study to learn more about the fetus’ ability to taste and smell in the womb,” lead researcher Beyza Ustun, a postgraduate researcher in the lab, told CNN on Thursday via email. Fetal and Neonatal Research from Durham University in the UK.

While some studies have suggested babies can taste and smell in the womb using postnatal findings, “our research is the first to show direct evidence of fetal responses to flavors in the womb,” Ustun added. .

“The results show that fetuses in the last 3 months of pregnancy are mature enough to distinguish the different tastes transferred from the maternal diet.”

The study looked at the healthy fetuses of 100 women aged 18 to 40 who were pregnant between 32 and 36 weeks in the North East of England.

From there, 35 women were placed in an experimental group that consumed an organic kale capsule, 35 were placed in a group that took a carrot capsule, and 30 were placed in a control group that did not. was exposed to neither. flavor.

Participants were instructed not to consume any food or flavored beverages one hour before their scans. The mothers also did not eat or drink anything containing carrots or kale on the day of their tests to ensure that it would not influence the results.

While carrot flavor may be described as “sweet” by adults, kale was chosen because it imparts more bitterness to infants than other green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli or asparagus. according to the study.

After a 20-minute post-consumption waiting period, the women underwent 4D ultrasounds, which were compared to 2D images of the fetuses.

Lip corner pull, evoking a smile or laugh, was significantly higher in the carrot group compared to the kale and control group. While movements such as upper lip lift, lower lip lower, lip press and a combination of these – evoking a crying face – were far more common in the kale group than in the other groups.

“Now we all know the importance (a) of healthy food for children. There are a lot of healthy vegetables, unfortunately with (a) bitter taste, which are generally not appealing to children,” Ustun said. She added that the study suggests that “we could change their preferences for these foods even before they are born by manipulating” a mother’s diet during pregnancy.

“We know that having a healthy diet during pregnancy is crucial for the health of children. And our evidence may be helpful in understanding that adjusting the mother’s diet can promote healthy eating habits in children,” she added.

Advances in technology have allowed for better images of the faces of fetuses in the womb, according to Professor Nadja Reissland, head of the Fetal and Newborn Research Laboratory at Durham University. Reissland, who supervised the research, developed the Fetal Observable Movement System (FMOS), with which 4D ultrasounds were coded.

“As technology advances, ultrasound imaging becomes better and more accurate,” she told CNN, adding that it “allows us to encode the facial movements of the fetus frame by frame in detail and over time.

The researchers have now started a follow-up study with the same babies after birth to see if the flavors they experienced in the womb affect their acceptance of different foods during childhood, according to the press release.

All of the women who took part in the study were white and British.

“Further research needs to be done with pregnant women from different cultural backgrounds,” Ustun told CNN. “For example, I am from Turkey and in my culture we like to eat bitter foods. It would be very interesting to see how Turkish babies react to the bitter taste.

She added that “genetic differences in taste sensitivity (being a super taster or not) could have an effect on fetal responses to bitter and non-bitter tastes.”


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