Baby Develops Taste For
Food While Still In The Womb
By Suzanne Rostler
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It is never too early to cultivate a gourmand, results of a study suggest.
According to researchers with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, exposure to flavors either through amniotic fluid or in breast milk can influence a child's food preferences. The study adds to a body of research showing that the food tastes of animals are also developed in the womb.
This finding suggests a mechanism by which the fetus receives information about foods that are safe and available, according to Dr. Julie A. Mennella, one of the study's authors. It is also a way for a fetus or young child to learn about the culture.
``Very early flavor experiences may provide the foundation for cultural differences,'' Mennella told Reuters Health. ''Mother's milk reflects the culture in which the child is born.''
In the study, presented at a recent meeting of the American Psychiatric Society in Miami, groups of pregnant women drank water or carrot juice during pregnancy and lactation.
One group drank 300 milliliters (ml) of carrot juice four days a week for three consecutive weeks during their last trimester and again during the first two months of breast-feeding. Another group drank water during pregnancy and carrot juice during lactation and a third group drank water during both pregnancy and lactation.
Researchers videotaped infants as they ate about four weeks after mothers had introduced cereal into their child's diet. In two separate sessions, the infants were fed cereal prepared with either water or carrot juice until they refused at least three times. After each feeding session, mothers rated how much their infants had enjoyed the food on a 9-point scale.
According to results, infants who had been exposed to the flavor of carrots through amniotic fluid or breast milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal than infants who were not exposed to the flavor of carrots. These infants also appeared to enjoy the carrot-flavored cereal more, according to the mothers.
``These findings are the first experimental evidence that exposure to a flavor, either pre- or post-natally, influences the human infants' acceptance and enjoyment of similarly flavored foods,'' report Dr. Coren P. Jagnow, the study' lead author, and colleagues.
The study was funded through a grant from the Gerber Companies Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
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