Does the taste of kale make you grimace with disapproval? You’re not alone: Researchers have seen fetuses cry when they’re exposed to the hip vegetable in the womb.
While previous studies have suggested that our food preferences start before birth and can be influenced by the mother’s diet, the new research is the first to look directly at the response of unborn babies to different tastes, according to the team.
“Seeing the fetus’s facial expressions when it perceives a bitter or non-bitter taste is completely new,” said Professor Nadja Reissland, of the University of Durham, England, who co-authored the study.
Taste from 14 weeks
The team writes in the journal ‘Psychological Science’ that aromas from the mother’s diet are in the amniotic fluid. Taste buds can detect taste-related chemicals from 14 weeks of pregnancy, odor molecules can be detected from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
To see whether fetuses distinguish specific tastes, the team looked at ultrasound scans of 70 pregnant people between the ages of 18 and 40, who were divided into two groups. One group was asked to take a capsule of powdered kale 20 minutes before an ultrasound scan, the other a capsule of root powder. All women were asked not to eat anything in the hour before their scans.
The team then conducted a frame-by-frame analysis of the frequency of many fetuses’ facial movements, including combinations that resembled laughter or cry.
Crying at kale, laughing at carrot
The results showed that fetuses were about twice as likely to show a cry when the mother consumed a kale capsule compared to a carrot capsule or no capsule. However, when the mother ingested a carrot capsule, the fetuses assumed a smiling expression twice as often as when the mother ingested a kale capsule or no capsule.
Kale is high in vitamins A, C and K. One cup of chopped kale provides more than the recommended daily allowance of these vitamins. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, folate and iron. It has been hailed as a ‘superfood’ for several years because of these characteristics. Apparently unborn children also think that it is not tasty yet.
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