The scientists looked at how the foetuses reacted to either carrot or kale flavours just a short time after the flavours had been ingested. Foetuses exposed to carrot showed more “laughter-face” responses while those exposed to kale showed more “cry-face” responses.
The researchers believe that what pregnant women eat might influence babies’ taste preferences after birth and potentially have implications for establishing healthy eating habits.
Lead researcher Beyza Ustun said: “A number of studies have suggested 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 prior to birth.
“As a result, we think that this repeated 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 the potential for avoiding ‘food-fussiness’ when weaning.”
Mothers were given a single capsule containing approximately 400mg of carrot or 400mg kale powder around 20 minutes before each scan and did not eat or drink anything else with those flavours on the day of the scans.
The research team have now begun a follow-up study with the same babies post-birth to see if the influence of flavours they experienced in the womb affects their acceptance of different foods.