Based on a recent study, foetuses have diverse reactions to certain diets.
The results, according to researchers at Durham University in northeastern England, are the first concrete proof that babies react differently to distinct tastes and odours even before they are born. They enjoy carrots a lot but dislike leafy green veggies, as evidenced by the expressions on their cheeks.
To observe the facial expressions of the foetus, mothers were scanned at 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Scientists found that newborns exposed to carrot flavours displayed “laughter-face” reactions in 4D ultrasound imaging of 100 pregnant women. In contrast, those who were exposed to kale flavours displayed higher “cry-face” reactions.
Facial reactions seen in both groups showed that exposure to just a small amount of carrot or kale flavour was sufficient to stimulate a response. As a result, the team said that this repeated exposure to flavours before birth could help to establish food preferences post-birth, which could be important when thinking about messaging around healthy eating and the potential for avoiding ‘food-fussiness’ when weaning.
Foetuses are believed to learn about flavours and smells through inhaling and swallowing the amniotic fluid in the womb.
Lead postgraduate researcher Beyza Ustun was quoted as saying by AFP, “A number of studies have suggested that babies can taste and smell in the womb, but they are based on post-birth outcomes while our study is the first to see these reactions prior to birth.”
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 Centre for Scientific Research in Burgundy, France, was also involved.
Research co-author Professor Jackie Blissett, of Aston University, said, “It could be argued that repeated prenatal flavour exposures may lead to preferences for those flavours experienced postnatally. In other words, exposing the foetus to less ‘liked’ flavours, such as kale, might mean they get used to those flavours in utero.”