A study led by Durham University’s Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab, UK, took 4D ultrasound scans of 100 pregnant women to see how their unborn babies responded after being exposed to flavors from foods eaten by their mothers.
Researchers looked at how the fetuses reacted to either carrot or kale flavors just a short time after the flavors had been ingested by the mothers.
Fetuses exposed to carrot showed more “laughter-face” responses while those exposed to kale showed more “cry-face” responses.
Their findings could further our understanding of the development of human taste and smell receptors.
The researchers also believe that what pregnant women eat might influence babies’ taste preferences after birth and potentially have implications for establishing healthy eating habits.
The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.
Humans experience flavor through a combination of taste and smell. In fetuses it is thought that this might happen through inhaling and swallowing the amniotic fluid in the womb.
Mothers were given a single capsule containing approximately 400mg of carrot or 400mg kale powder around 20 minutes before each scan. They were asked not to consume any food or flavored drinks one hour before their scans.
Facial reactions seen in both flavor groups, compared with fetuses in a control group who were not exposed to either flavor, showed that exposure to just a small amount of carrot or kale flavor was enough to stimulate a reaction.
“Previous research conducted in my lab has suggested that 4D ultrasound scans are a way of monitoring fetal reactions to understand how they respond to maternal health behaviors such as smoking, and their mental health including stress, depression, and anxiety.
“This latest study could have important implications for understanding the earliest evidence for fetal abilities to sense and discriminate different flavors and smells from the foods ingested by their mothers.”
The researchers say their findings might also help with information given to mothers about the importance of taste and healthy diets during pregnancy.
They have now begun a follow-up study with the same babies post-birth to see if the influence of flavors they experienced in the womb affects their acceptance of different foods.Medical Express
These findings seem to support the conclusion that the unborn are alive and human. But does the flavor of carrots make you smile?