What if a mother could predispose her child to like broccoli or Brussels sprouts — or at least to not make a face and spit it out — by what she ate during pregnancy?
Some health-care practitioners are suggesting that if mothers include a wide range of foods in their diet during pregnancy, they can shape their children’s food preferences. Those choices, researchers say, have the potential to reduce the risks of diabetes and obesity.
The concept is called prenatal flavor learning.
The flavor and odors of what mothers eat show up in the amniotic fluid, which is swallowed by the fetus, and in breast milk. There is evidence that fetal taste buds are mature in utero by 13 to 15 weeks, with taste receptor cells appearing at 16 weeks, researchers say.
Trout recently co-authored a paper that reviews the evidence on prenatal flavor learning and its implications for controlling childhood obesity and diabetes, among the country’s most pressing health problems. She is incorporating the concept into the curriculum of Georgetown’s two-year midwifery master’s degree program. Starting in January, the reproductive health course for first-year students will include that concept in the section on prenatal care and nutrition, she said.
She said researchers have also found that flavor learning prepares babies for the foods of their culture. If that culture features fast foods and large amounts of sweets, however, children will be at higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
An excellent piece supporting what Chinese have been practicing for centuries if not longer: intervention of mom before birth matters for cognition, health, preferences and behaviors