Study Finds Unborn Babies Frown When Moms Eat Kale

Parents of young children can attest: Kids are picky eaters. Sure, there are some small children and toddlers who love food and are adventurous at mealtime, but for the most part, little tots are picky. Some would live on French fries, nuggets, and noodles if given the chance.

One question that many wonder is where picky eating starts. Is it something young kids develop as they’re introduced to solid foods, or is it something they’re born with?

Photo: Unsplash/Logan Cameron

Researchers out of Durham University in the U.K. wanted to find answers, so they held a study in England with 100 women during their 32nd-36th weeks of pregnancy.

The study, titled “Flavor sensing in utero and emerging discriminative behaviors in the human fetus,” was published in Sage Journals in late September. Researchers wanted to see if babies in the womb that stage of development would react to different flavors.

To conduct the study, thirty-five of the women took a capsule containing powdered carrot and 34 took a capsule containing powdered kale. Carrots and kale were used because of their contrasting flavors, with carrots having a sweet, woody flavor and kale having a bitter flavor.

Photo: Unsplash/Nutriciously

20 minutes after consuming the tablets, moms were given a 4D ultrasound to see how the fetuses were reacting the flavors. As it turns out, the little babies had quite the facial expressions! Some who tasted the carrot capsules pulled faces that looked like tiny smiles, while those with the kale capsules had unpleasant expressions. Some of the kale babies frowned and looked like they were about to cry.

Researchers included photos with the study, and you can see two of them in university’s tweet below:

In an interview with CNN, lead researcher Beyza Ustun said, “Our research is the first one showing direct evidence of fetal reactions to flavors in the womb.”

While the study did have a control group, it was missing cultural diversity. All of the participants were white and British, so researchers are hoping to further the study by including fetuses from different cultures.

Photo: flickr/JCHaywire

Ustun explained to CNN, “Further research needs to be conducted with pregnant women coming from different cultural backgrounds. For example, I am coming from Turkey and in my culture, we love to eat bitter foods. It would be very interesting to see how Turkish babies would react to bitter taste.”

In addition to examining babies of different cultures, the researchers plan to follow up with the babies they studied to see if their prenatal preferences match up to their preferences outside of the womb. It’ll be interesting to see if the babies who preferenced carrots in the womb continue to do so once they’re born!

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