“We decided to do this study to understand more about a fetus’s taste and smell abilities in the womb,” lead researcher Besa Auston, a graduate researcher at the Embryology and Newborn Research Laboratory at Durham University in the UK, told CNN Thursday by email.
While some studies have indicated that babies can taste and smell in the womb using postnatal findings, “Our research is the first to show direct evidence of fetal interactions with flavors present in the womb,” Auston added.
“The results show that fetuses in the third trimester of pregnancy are mature enough to distinguish different tastes transferred from the mother’s diet.”
The study looked at the healthy fetuses of 100 women aged 18-40 who were between 32 and 36 weeks old in north-east England.
Of this, 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 was not exposed to either. flavor.
Participants were asked not to consume any flavored food or drinks one hour before the examination. The mothers also did not eat or drink anything containing carrots or cabbage on the day of the examination to ensure that it would not affect the results.
While the flavor of carrots 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 waiting period after consumption, the women underwent 4D ultrasound scans, which were compared with 2D images of the fetuses.
The lip angle drag, suggestive of a smile or laughter, was significantly higher in the carrot group compared to the turnip group and the control group. Whereas, movements such as raising the upper lip, throwing the lower lip down, lip squeezing, and a combination of these – suggestive of a crying face – were more common in the turnip group than in the other groups.
“Right now, we all know the importance of (a) a healthy children’s diet,” Auston said. “There are a lot of healthy, unfortunately bitter-tasting vegetables that don’t usually appeal to kids.” She added that the study suggests that “we may change their preferences for such foods before they are born by manipulating” the mother’s diet during pregnancy.
She added: “We know that a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical to children’s health. Our evidence can be useful for understanding that modifying the mother’s diet can promote healthy eating habits for children.”
Enhanced imaging technology
Technological advances have allowed for better images of fetus faces in the womb, according to Professor Nadia Reissland, head of the Embryology and Newborn Research Laboratory at Durham University. Reissland, who led the research, developed the Fetal Motion Observed System (FMOS), with which four-dimensional ultrasound scans were encoded.
“As technology advances, ultrasound imaging is getting better and more accurate,” she told CNN, adding that this “allows us to encode fetal facial movements frame by frame in detail and over time.”
The researchers have now begun a follow-up study with the same babies after birth to see if flavors they were exposed to in the womb affect their acceptance of different foods during childhood, according to the press release.
All the women who participated in the study were white and British.
“More research needs to be done in pregnant women from different cultural backgrounds,” Auston told CNN. “For example, I come from Turkey and in my culture, we like to eat bitter foods. It will be very interesting to see how Turkish children will react to the bitter taste.”
“Genetic differences in taste sensitivity (whether superior or not) may have an impact on the fetus’s reactions to bitter and non-bitter tastes,” she added.