We already knew that babies were more openminded about tastes they were familiar with through the amniotic fluid and breastmilk. But a new study finds that not only are babies sensitized to these known tastes and smells, they’re actually physically wired to be attracted to them.
The predisposition is caused by changes in the fetal brain, specifically the olfactory glomeruli,responsible for the processing of smell. Smells in the amniotic fluid change the development of this part of the brain. The fluid’s smell and taste change according to the mother’s diet (much, I guess, like urine changes with different foods).
So not only does eating a food during pregnancy make your baby more willing to try that food, your current diet may actually be programming your baby’s future tastes.
But no pressure—enjoy those cheese fries.
The study was conducted over two years at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. According to Josephine Todrank, PhD, the study’s author, the study is significant not only for future nutrition, but for future interest in alcholic beverages:
“This highlights the importance of eating a healthy diet and refraining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy and nursing…If the mother drinks alcohol, her child may be more attracted to alcohol because the developing fetus “expects” that whatever comes from the mother must be safe. If she eats healthy food, the child will prefer healthy food.”
The study (on rats, not people) found significant brain changes when fetuses were exposed to food and beverages regularly in utero. Pups with mothers who ate a flavored diet later preferred the flavors their mothers ate frequently. It’s not yet known whether the brain changes that accompany these preferences are temporary or permanent.