The first direct evidence that babies respond differently to smells and tastes in the womb was recorded by scientists.
The Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab at Durham University took 4D scans of 100 pregnant women to see how their unborn babies reacted after being exposed to flavours from food eaten by their mothers.
After the mothers had eaten the flavours, researchers looked at how the fetus reacted to them.
Fetuses who were exposed to carrot had more "cry-face" responses while those who were exposed to kale had more "laughter face" responses.
Their findings could help us understand the development of smell and taste in humans.
The researchers believe that what pregnant women eat could have implications for establishing healthy eating habits for the baby.
There is a study in the journal.
Humans have a combination of tastes and smells. It is believed that this can happen through inhaling and swallowingamniotic fluid.
Beyza Ustun is the lead researcher in the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab.
A number of studies suggest that babies can taste and smell in the womb, but they are based on post-birth outcomes while our study is the first to see these reactions before birth."
Exposure to flavours before birth could help to establish food preferences post-birth, which could be important when thinking about messaging around healthy eating and avoiding food-fussiness.
During the scans, it was amazing to see the unborn babies' reactions to different flavours of food.
The mothers were scanned at both 32 weeks and 36 weeks of pregnancy to see fetal facial reactions to the flavours of the food.
The mothers were given a single capsule of either carrot or kale powder around 20 minutes prior to the scans. One hour before their scans, they were told not to eat or drink anything.
On the day of their scans, the mothers did not eat or drink anything with carrot or kale in it.
The facial reactions seen in the flavour groups were similar to the facial reactions seen in the control group.
Professor Nadja Reissland is head of the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab at Durham University. She spoke.
Fetal reactions to maternal health behaviors such as smoking, and their mental health including stress, depression, and anxiety can be monitored using 4D scans.
Understanding the earliest evidence for fetal abilities to sense and discriminate different flavours and smells from the foods their mothers eat is important.
Professor Benoist Schaal is a co-author of the book.
The fetal environment can be assumed to have a range of chemical stimuli passing through the maternal diet.
It could have important implications for our understanding of the development of our taste and smellreceptors.
According to the researchers, their findings could help with information given to mothers about the importance of taste and healthy diet during pregnancy.
The follow-up study is to see if the influence of flavours they experienced in the womb affects their eating habits.
The research co-author is a professor at the university.
It's possible that exposing the fetus to flavours they don't like will make them get used to them.
The next step is to see if fetuses show less negative responses to these flavours over time, which will lead to greater acceptance of those flavours when babies first taste them outside of the uterus.
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