Study: Babies in utero can show preference for carrots, dislike of kale


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Fetuses were found to like carrots more than they do kale, according to a new U.K. study that examined whether soon-to-be born babies could differentiate between certain tastes and smells in the womb.

Durham University’s Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab took 4D ultrasound scans of 100 women when they were both 32 and 36 weeks pregnant, according to a press release from the university.

The women who participated — who were all between the ages of 18 and 40 — took 400mg capsules of either carrot or kale powder around 20 minutes before each scan.

Researchers found that fetuses showed more “laughter-face” responses when exposed to carrots and showed more “cry-face” responses when exposed to kale.

“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,” said lead researcher Beyza Ustun from Durham University in the release.

Mothers didn’t eat or drink anything an hour before their scan, and they also didn’t eat or drink anything containing carrot or kale on the day of their scans to control for the fetal reactions. 

Authors said the peer-reviewed study was the first ever to look at whether babies could develop a sense of taste and smell in the womb. Previous studies assessed babies after they were born and suggested that they could do so.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science this week.

Scientists from Aston University in the U.K. and the National Centre for Scientific Research-University of Burgundy in France also helped carry out the study.

Researchers said their findings may help with establishing healthy eating habits for babies while they’re still in the womb.

“The next step is to examine whether fetuses show less ‘negative’ responses to these flavours over time, resulting in greater acceptance of those flavours when babies first taste them outside of the womb,” said co-author Jackie Blissett of Aston University in the release.


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