Think Your Fetus Liked That Salad You Ate? Check the Scan

Ultrasound facial expressions differed depending on if moms-to-be were given kale or carrot capsules
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 1:05 PM CDT
Fetuses' Faces Offer Clues on What Foods They Like
Can we just skip straight to the cake?   (Getty Images/nata_zhekova)

New moms often insist that their infants respond positively to the same music they used to hear in the womb—could the same go for food that their mothers ate while they were still in utero? Scientists out of the UK's Durham University are now wondering the same, after their research showed that fetuses appear to more often make faces that resemble crying after their mom has popped a bitter kale pill, reports the Guardian. For their study published Wednesday in the Psychological Science journal—said to be the first to directly examine unborn babies' preferences to various flavors—researchers looked at 4D ultrasound scans of 100 white pregnant women from the UK between the ages of 18 and 40.

The moms-to-be were split into three groups, and they were all asked not to eat anything in the hour preceding their scans. The women in one group were asked to ingest a powdered kale capsule 20 minutes before the scan, the women in the second group were each given a powdered carrot capsule, and the third group wasn't given any capsules. The scientists then sifted through all of the ultrasounds frame by frame, looking to see if there was a difference in fetuses' facial expressions, depending on what their mothers did or didn't ingest. As it turns out, fetuses whose moms had taken the kale pills were twice as likely to grimace or make a crying expression than those whose moms had taken a carrot capsule, or none at all. On the flip side, the carrot capsule unborns broke out in a laughing expression twice as much as the other two groups of fetuses.

The scientists believe that aromas from the mother's diet could appear in the amniotic fluid, which the fetus may then able to detect via inhaling and swallowing that fluid. The researchers are next looking to explore if a fetus's exposure to bitter tastes in the womb might translate to a less-finicky baby, at least regarding those bitter foods, once they make their entrance into the world. "We think that this repeated exposure to flavors before birth could help to establish food preferences post-birth," says study lead author Beyza Ustun, per a release. The upshot: Those kids whose moms chow down on healthier fare while pregnant may be setting their babies up for their own healthy preferences down the road. The scientists' research could also boost our understanding of how human taste and smell receptors develop. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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