Babies react differently to the tastes and smells in their mothers’ wombs, scientists have concluded for the first time, after analyzing the facial expressions of fetuses.
In the study, carried out by researchers at the British University of Durham and the French University of Burgundy, published this Thursday in the journal “Psychological Science”, 4D ultrasounds were performed on 100 women aged 18 to 40 years and pregnant women from 32 to 36 weeks. The images allowed us to observe how future babies react when mothers eat certain foods.
Facing the carrot, the fetuses displayed a smiling face, while those whose mother had eaten kale had a crying face, the scientists said.
“Studies had suggested that babies could taste and smell in the womb, but they were based on outcomes after birth. Our study is the first to focus on these reactions before delivery,” said Beyza Ustun, a researcher at the University of Durham and main author.
Human beings perceive flavors by combining taste and smell. In fetuses, researchers believe this can happen through inhalation and ingestion of amniotic fluid in the uterus.
“By observing the facial reactions of fetuses, we can assume that a series of chemical stimuli pass through the mother’s diet to the fetal environment,” said Professor Benoist Schaal, from the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Burgundy, co-author of the study. “This could play a very important role in our understanding of the development of our olfactory and gustatory receptors, as well as the perception and memory to which they are linked.”
According to the researchers, these results could help inform mothers about the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. The study authors also began to look at whether a pregnant woman’s diet could impact a baby’s preferences after birth.
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