In the Womb, Babies React Differently to Flavors, according to a Study

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    Babies in their mother’s womb react differently to tastes and smells, scientists first concluded after analyzing their facial expressions. In this study, conducted by researchers from Britain’s Durham University and France’s Burgundy University, and published last Thursday in the journal Psychological Science, 4D ultrasound scans were performed on 100 women aged 18 to 40 and pregnant women aged 32 to 36 weeks. These images have allowed us to observe the way in which future babies react when their mother eats carrot or kale.

    When faced with the carrot, the fetuses showed a “laughing face”, while those whose mother had eaten cabbage had a “tearful face”, the scientists said. “Several studies had suggested that babies could taste and smell in the womb, but they were based on results after birth. Our study is the first to focus on these reactions before birth”, said Beyza Ustun, a researcher at the University of Durham and lead author of the study.

    The human being perceives flavors by combining taste and smell. In fetuses, the researchers believe the mechanism could be through the amniotic fluid in the uterus. “By looking at the facial reactions of the fetuses, we can assume that a series of chemical stimuli pass through the feeding of the mother in the environment of the fetus”, said Professor Benoist Schaal, from the University of Burgundy and co-author of the study. “This could play a very important role in our understanding of the development of our taste and olfactory receptors, as well as the perception and memory with which they are linked”, he continued.

    According to the researchers, these results could help inform mothers about the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. The study authors also began looking at whether the diet of pregnant women might have an impact on the baby’s preferences after birth or not.

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