Study reveals fetuses react to flavours: they don’t like cabbage either

The study has been peer-reviewed and shows the first evidence of taste and smell recognition in fetuses .

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A new study has surprisingly revealed that fetuses can react to flavors consumed by their mother.

The research was carried out by the Fetal and Neonatal Research Laboratory at Durham University, UK, using 4D ultrasound scans of 100 pregnant women as reference.

Carrots yes, cabbage no

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science , looks at the reactions of fetuses to carrot and kale shortly after the foods have been eaten by the mothers. The mothers were between 18 and 40 years old, all between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

While adults may describe the carrot’s taste as “sweet,” kale was chosen because it imparts more bitterness to babies than other green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli or asparagus, according to the study.

According to the results, fetuses exposed to carrot showed more “like” responses, while those exposed to kale showed more “dislike” responses. 

According to lead researcher Beyza Ustun, this is the first study to prove the theory of taste and smell reception by babies before birth.

The basis for new studies

The researchers also believe that what pregnant women eat could influence babies’ taste preferences after birth and potentially have implications for establishing healthy eating habits.

“As a result, we believe that this repeated exposure to flavors before birth could help establish food preferences after birth, which could be important when thinking about delivering messages about healthy eating and the potential to avoid ‘picky eating.’ during weaning”, pointed out the author.

The researchers say their findings could also help inform mothers about the importance of taste and healthy diets during pregnancy.

They have now started a follow-up study with the same fetuses after birth to see if the influence of the tastes they experienced in the womb affects their acceptance of different foods.