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Researchers have revealed that babies detect taste, smell in their mother’s womb NewsPipa

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Washington: Scientists have discovered the first direct evidence that babies react differently to different smells and tastes while in the womb by observing their facial expressions.

A study led by Durham University’s Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab, UK, used 4D ultrasound scans of 100 pregnant women to see how their unborn babies reacted after being exposed to the flavors of foods their mothers ate.

Researchers looked at how fetuses responded to the taste of carrots or ink shortly after the mother had tasted them.

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Fetuses exposed to carrots showed more “smiley-face” reactions while fetuses exposed to kale showed more “cry-face” reactions.

Their findings may further our understanding of the development of taste and smell receptors in humans.
Researchers also believe that what pregnant women eat can affect the taste preferences of babies after birth and have potential implications for establishing healthy eating habits.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Humans experience taste through the combination of taste and smell. In fetuses it is thought to occur by inhaling and swallowing amniotic fluid in the womb.

Lead researcher Beija Ustun, a postgraduate researcher in the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab in Durham University’s Department of Psychology, said:

“Many studies have suggested that babies can taste and smell in the womb, but they are based on results after birth while our study shows these responses are first observed before birth.

“Consequently, we think that this repeated exposure to flavors before birth may help establish food preferences after birth, which may be important when thinking about the potential for healthy eating messages and avoiding ‘food binges’ during weaning.

“Watching unborn babies react to the taste of kale or carrots during the scan and sharing those moments with their parents was truly amazing.”

The research team, which also included scientists from Aston University, Birmingham, UK and the National Center for Scientific Research-University of Burgundy, France, scanned mothers aged 18 to 40 at both 32 weeks and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Fetal oral responses to the taste of kale and carrot.

Mothers were given a single capsule containing approximately 400 mg of carrot or 400 mg of kale powder approximately 20 minutes before each scan. They were asked not to consume any food or flavored drinks for one hour before the scan.

Mothers did not eat or drink anything containing carrots or kale on the day of their scan to control for factors that could affect fetal response.

Mouth responses were observed in both flavor groups, compared to fetuses in a control group who were not exposed to either flavor, showing that exposure to only a small amount of carrot or kale odor is sufficient to stimulate a response.

Co-author Professor Nadja Reisland, Head of the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab in Durham University’s Department of Psychology, supervised the research by Beija Ustun. He said:

“Previous research conducted in my lab has suggested that 4D ultrasound scans are a way to monitor fetal responses to understand how they respond to maternal health behaviors such as smoking and their mental health, including stress, depression and anxiety.

“This recent study may have important implications for understanding preliminary evidence for the ability of fetuses to perceive and discriminate different tastes and odors from foods consumed by their mothers.”

Co-author Professor Benoist Schall of the National Center for Scientific Research-University of Burgundy, France, said:

“By looking at fetal mouth responses, we can infer that a range of chemical stimuli pass through the maternal diet into the fetal environment.

“This could have important implications for our understanding of the development of our taste and smell receptors and related perception and memory.”

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

They are now starting a follow-up study with the same babies after birth to see if the taste effects they experience in the womb affects their intake of different foods.

Study co-author Professor Jackie Blissett of Aston University said:

“It could be argued that repeated prenatal flavor exposures can lead to a preference for those flavors experienced after birth. In other words, exposing fetuses to less ‘preferred’ flavors, such as kale, could mean that they become accustomed to those flavors in utero. gone

“The next step is to test whether fetuses react less ‘negatively’ to these flavors over time, leading to greater acceptance of those flavors when babies first taste them outside the womb.”

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