New Research Suggests Babies Develop Food Preferences While Still In The Womb

Frustrated with a kid who refuses to eat the veggies on their plate? If dinner time always turns into a battle of wills, try not to get too upset with them. They might have been born with that aversion to kale before they were born. According to WebMD, new research suggests babies develop food preferences while still in the womb. A 2022 research article published in Psychological Science studied 100 pregnant women in England at 32 to 36 weeks gestation to see if infants in the womb respond to nutritional stimuli. 

Using highly sensitive ultrasound equipment (per WebMD), researchers were able to see the infants' facial expressions after mothers ingested different kinds of food. "We are the first ones who could actually show on an ultrasound scan the facial expressions in relation to the food which the mother has just consumed," Nadja Reissland, a co-author of the study and the head of the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab at Durham University, told NBC News.

Pregnant women who eat healthy may have less picky babies

During the study, expectant mothers were divided into three groups. One group swallowed capsules containing a powdered carrot. Another group took capsules with the equivalent of 100 grams of powdered kale. The third group (control group) received nothing. Twenty minutes later, researchers looked at ultrasound scans of the babies' faces and saw that those who had received carrots appeared to be smiling or laughing, while babies whose mothers ate the kale were grimacing. The control group did not give the same responses. 

According to the 2022 study, fetuses develop sensory capabilities, including taste and smell, in the womb during the last trimester of pregnancy. The amniotic fluid absorbs the aromatic chemical compounds that give food its flavors after the mother ingests food or drink. Whatever the mother eats during the last one to three months of pregnancy can affect the flavors and odors the infant will prefer after birth. 

Reissland believes mothers who eat healthy during pregnancy may have children who are more willing to eat healthy food. "If we can actually get [children] to like green vegetables and to perhaps not like sweets that much, it might help with regard to their weight gain and their weight balance," Reissland told NBC News.