Fetus grimacing over kale, research findings | Pro IQRA News

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It turns out that it’s not just kids who are picky about vegetables. Fetuses between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation can also appear to wince over kale and smile for carrots, according to a small UK study that looked at how fetuses react to taste.

The peer-reviewed paper, published in Psychological Science, looked at fetal chemosensory reactivity and found that fetal facial movements could be detected within 30 minutes after parents took just one dose of 400 mg of carrot or kale powder in a capsule, the equivalent of about 50g of raw vegetables. These facial movements together form an expression that looks like a “laughing face” or a “crying face”.

“We think that repeated exposure to flavors before birth may help to establish food preferences after delivery, which may be important when thinking about messages around healthy eating and the potential to avoid ‘food fussing’ during weaning,” said lead researcher Beyza Ustun with the Department of Psychology. Durham University in a statement.

This is the first longitudinal study to show the fetus can detect chemosensory information through the food consumed by the parents, the authors said.

“The results of this study have important implications for our understanding of human oral and nasal chemoreceptor development, including the nature and timing of behavioral reactions to prenatal taste exposure, involvement of fetal memory for taste,” conclude the researchers in the paper.

“It could be argued that repeated prenatal taste exposures may lead to preferences for certain taste profiles… Future studies need to follow up with postnatal behavioral analyzes to assess how prenatal taste exposures might influence postnatal food preferences in the short and long term.”

Previous studies have shown that most molecules can cross the placenta and fetuses begin to sense their environment for the first time through the amniotic fluid. Previous studies examined changes in the taste of amniotic fluid after swallowing different foods, or measured reactions in babies after they were born.

One previous study found that infants had fewer nose wrinkles, lowered eyebrows and head turned and expression of carrot-flavoured cereal if they had been exposed to the flavor during the third trimester of pregnancy, compared to those who were not exposed.

In a recent study, researchers found that, within a short period of time, the flavors in the capsules are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, then metabolized, reaching the fetal chemoreceptors in about half an hour.

One hundred participants between the ages of 18 and 40 from northeast England were involved in the study from 32 to 36 weeks of gestation. The researchers measured the results by capturing fetal facial movements frame-by-frame via real-time 4D ultrasound recordings.

The researchers found that fetuses exposed to the taste of kale gave more complex “crying faces” as they matured, such as “lower lip presses,” “lip stretches,” and lip presses. Those exposed to the carrot scent produced more “laugh-faced” expressions, but the movements did not become more complex over time. This study only looked at fetal reactions and did not examine whether these reactions stem from actual pleasure or aversion to taste.

“These contrasting results can be explained by the anatomical substrate involved in producing the laugh-face and cry-face gestalts,” explain the authors, noting that one movement of pulling the corners of the lips up is sufficient to create a “laugh-face” but multiple facial movements. different ones are needed to create the “crying face” expression.

There are some limitations to this study, the authors note. Information for the control group, who was not exposed to any flavours, could not be collected at the same frequency as those taking the capsules. The facial response of the fetus can also be influenced by the types of vegetables that parents usually eat. Another variable that may affect the results is genetic variation in bitter taste perception and sensitivity.

The researchers are now conducting follow-up studies with the same cohort after they were born to see if their acceptance of different foods was influenced by their experiences before birth.


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