Tastes and food preferences could form already before birth, in the womb. This is suggested by a study that for the first time explores the reactions of fetuses, at different stages of gestation, to different flavors, through 4D ultrasound scans that are able to visualize the baby’s face.
Yes to carrots but kale …
Kale, or kale, is definitely not popular with children in general. Its bitter taste does not make it particularly desirable and the grimaces captured by ultrasound scans show that this is also the case for unborn babies. The researchers involved 100 pregnant women aged 18 to 40, asking them to take a capsule with kale powder or one with carrot powder, without consuming other foods for at least an hour before the exam.
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180 ultrasound scans at different stages of gestation
In all, 180 ultrasound scans were performed at different stages of gestation. Scientists from the University of Durham (Great Britain), collaborating with other universities, were able to photograph the faces of the children who “tasted” the two different capsules. The little ones who happened to have the kale showed grimaces of disgust, similar to expressions of tears, twice as often as those who, on the other hand, had had the pill with the carrot, who, on the other hand, expressed joy with an expression similar to a smile.
When tastes are formed
The study, published in Psychological Science, points out that from an evolutionary point of view a rejection of the bitter taste makes a lot of sense, because in this way our ancestors avoided being poisoned. But it is thought that our preferences in terms of flavors can also be formed thanks to the mother’s diet: “With a diet as varied as possible, with lots of fruit and vegetables, pregnant women could then avoid having children with difficult tastes and who eat only certain things, “explained the researcher Beyza Ustun, lead author of the study. Indicatively, the fetus can smell the flavors at the fourteenth week of life, while for the odors it has to wait until the twenty-fourth week.
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How the flavors arrive
The researchers explain that flavors reach the fetus through blood vessels and travel from the placenta to the amniotic fluid. “This study could be very important to understand when exactly the fetus has the ability to discriminate between one flavor and another – explains the co-author. Nadja Reissland, also from Durham University – We know from previous literature that the nutrition that the fetus receives in the womb is fundamental and determines the future health of the baby. But this is the first time we have direct evidence that unborn babies respond to flavors just like babies after birth. This suggests that pregnancy could be a perfect time to eat all those things that babies usually reject. “