Tastes Good? Food Preferences May Be Determined in the Womb

If you don't have an appetite for certain kinds of foods, you may want to have a chat with your mother.

Researchers have found connections between the food a mother eats during her last two months of pregnancy and the tastes babies develop later. There are also connections, according to researchers, between the foods babies eat during their first seven months and the flavors they learn to appreciate.

In Philadelphia researchers gave carrot juice to pregnant women several days a week during their last trimester. Six months later, when their babies were offered carrot-flavored cereal, they ate 20 percent more than babies who had not been exposed to the juice before birth.

Similar studies were done in Europe. Pregnant women who ate lots of garlic were found more likely to have babies who welcomed the taste.

"So what that tells you is that there's some type of memory that's being formed," said Julie Mennella of the Monel Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, a research center devoted to taste and smell.

Monel has found critical periods in the first seven months of life in which tastes are formed for certain types of food.

The data could have an impact on nursing mothers' diets, since the food they eat alters the flavor of their milk. Pregnant mothers should bear in mind similar research that found that the last two months of pregnancy also have an impact on the foods their children will eventually enjoy eating.

Many food preferences are well established by just 2 years of age, the scientists concluded.

Researchers found that the more varied the fruits and vegetables a 2-year-old's diet, the more of these healthy foods they'll enjoy when they turn 8 or 9.

The study offers further evidence that children's eating habits can be shaped earlier than many mothers may have ever thought possible.

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