Babies in the womb ‘smile’ at carrots and ‘grieve’ at kale, say scientists | Science

If eating kale makes you frown, know that you’re not alone.

Scientific research has found that fetuses seem to smile inside their mothers’ tummy after they eat carrots and grimace after they eat kale.

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The University of Durham’s Neonatal Research Laboratory in the UK says the study is the first direct evidence showing fetuses responding to different tastes in real time.

The researchers did a study of over 100 pregnant women in England.

They gave 35 women capsules containing carrot powder. Another 34 ingested kale powder. The remaining 30 women were part of a control group and did not eat these substances.

According to the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, 20 minutes after the mothers swallowed the capsules, 4D ultrasounds showed that most fetuses exposed to kale appeared to grimace. Meanwhile, those exposed to carrots seemed to smile.

The control group of 30 pregnant women who did not eat at all did not have the same responses.

Previous studies have indicated that food preferences can start even before birth, as the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus can have different flavors, depending on the pregnant woman’s diet.

According to the University of Durham, this is the first study to directly analyze the response of unborn babies to different flavors.

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But when does a fetus begin to taste new foods?

“We know from previous research that the nutrition that fetuses receive through the mother’s diet is really important for later healthy development. But what we don’t know is when it actually starts,” says Nadja Reissland, co-author of the study and head of the Laboratory of Durham University Fetal and Neonatal Research.

“Unborn babies show their preference for sugar as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy,” she told the BBC.

“For our experiment, we gave babies from 32 to 36 weeks of gestation the powder capsules, as their expressions tend to become increasingly complex”, he says.

“We want to continue our research and continue to record data from these babies after birth, and see if they react to carrots and cabbage like they did in the womb. healthy”, says Reissland.

But what does this experiment show us about taste development in babies?

According to Reissland, the study indicates that taste develops very early and also depends on the enculturation of the food environment.

“As the fetus has this diet from the mother, after birth they get used to it and continue to eat this diet”, says the researcher.

Bitter flavors associated with poison

Reissland also points out another reason why fetuses can reject bitter flavors.

“We also associate bitter taste with the danger of poisoning and react accordingly. But since not all bitter tastes indicate poison, we have to educate ourselves and our children to overcome this reaction. Certain foods that taste bitter are healthy.” , says Reissland.

However, she adds that while the images indicate an adult-like reaction to the bitter taste, it remains to be seen whether fetuses actually experience emotions or heartbreak.

The grimaces and smiles seen on the ultrasound “could just be the muscle movements that are reacting to a bitter taste,” says Reissland.

She adds, however, that it is normal for fetuses to have facial expressions.

What do other scientists think?

Daniel Robinson, an associate professor of neonatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the United States, is not involved in the research.

He told NBC television that people should not interpret the ultrasound images as evidence that the fetuses were displaying happiness or heartbreak.

Julie Mennella, from the Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center, is also not involved in the study, but is an expert in the field.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, she said the work confirms previous findings that children learn about their mother’s diet through the flavors of food in the amniotic fluid.

The publication also quotes Professor Catherine Forestell of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, who said she looked forward to future research into how a fetus responds to a mother’s feeding.

“Several studies have suggested that babies can taste and smell in the womb. But they are based on results collected after delivery, while our study is the first to see these reactions before birth,” said Beyza Ustun, who led the research.

“We believe that this repeated exposure to flavors before birth can help establish food preferences, which can be important when thinking about messages about healthy eating and the potential to avoid ‘binge eating,'” says Ustun.

Therefore, in practical terms, the research can provide clues for new mothers and fathers who want to ensure a healthy diet for their child.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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