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Eating Carrots During Pregnancy Could Make Fetuses Happy

An analysis of 4D ultrasound scans showed how fetuses responded after being exposed to flavors from foods eaten by mothers.

Eating carrots during pregnancy could make babies happy in the womb, according to a new study.

The nutritious root vegetable appeared to cause developing fetuses to laugh. Kale, on the other hand, appeared to have the opposite effect.

Lead author Beyza Ustun, a Ph.D. student at Durham University, said: “A number of studies have suggested 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 prior to birth”.

The General Electric ultrasound device Voluson 730 Expert is seen September 26, 2002 in New York City. G(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) 

“As a result, we think this repeated exposure to flavors before birth could help to establish food preferences post-birth, which could be important when thinking about messaging around healthy eating and the potential for avoiding ‘food-fussiness’ when weaning”.

The international team studied how the fetuses behaved just a short time after ingestion by the mothers.

The findings published in the journal Psychological Science sheds fresh light on the development of human taste and smell receptors.

Co-author Professor Nadja Reissland, also from Durham, said: “Previous research conducted in my lab has suggested 4D ultrasound scans are a way of monitoring fetal reactions to understand how they respond to maternal health behaviors such as smoking, and their mental health including stress, depression and anxiety”.

“This latest study could have important implications for understanding the earliest evidence for fetal abilities to sense and discriminate different flavors and smells from the foods ingested by their mothers:. she said.

The mothers, aged 18 to 40, were scanned after 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. They were given a single capsule containing about 400mg of carrot or kale powder around 20 minutes before.

It was all they consumed for at least an hour. The women also did not eat or drink anything else containing carrots or kale that day.

Varieties of root vegetables, including carrots and turnips, lie on display at the Green Week (Grüne Woche) agricultural trade fair on January 17, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Facial reactions showed exposure to just a small amount of carrot or kale was enough to stimulate a reaction, compared with control fetuses not exposed to either.

The findings might also help guide the information given to mothers about the importance of taste and healthy diets during pregnancy.

Co-author Prof Jackie Blissett, of Aston University, said: “It could be argued repeated prenatal flavor exposures may lead to preferences for those flavors experienced postnatally”.

“In other words, exposing the fetus to less ‘liked’ flavors, such as kale, might mean they get used to those flavors in the womb. The next step is to examine whether fetuses show less ‘negative’ responses to these flavors over time, resulting in greater acceptance of those flavors when babies first taste them outside of the womb”, he added.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

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