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Babies May Inherit their Mother’s Eating Habits in the Womb

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The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, keeps providing news for our blog. Yesterday it was the ‘Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans’; before that, we wrote about the striking statement made by Dr Jack Gilbert that hospitals might be too clean. Today it’s about how a pregnant mother’s eating habits may affect her baby’s sense of taste.

Dr Benoist Schaal, researcher at the Dijon-Dresden European Laboratory for Taste and Smell (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), states that eating habits start in the womb. He explained a study conducted by himself, along with researchers Luc Marlier and Robert Soussignan, on how unborn babies “learn odours from their pregnant mother’s diet.”

The scientists asked a group of pregnant women to consume anise flavoured cookies. Once they gave birth, researchers tested their kids along with others whose mothers hadn’t consumed the cookies. They found that the former recognized the smell and showed a good disposition towards it, while the latter rejected it.

“During pregnancy a woman is relatively vulnerable to her environment,” Schaal said. “What the mother takes in a certain dose goes also to the foetus during a period when the brain is being formed, probably with long term consequences.”

The researcher also described some other studies that showed similar effects both in unborn and newborn babies. He cited a research that linked bad eating habits with a limited variety of eating options at an early stage of the child development, or a study that proved how foetus exposed to smoking are more likely to start smoking by age 12.

Source: The Press Association

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Schaal B, Marlier L, & Soussignan R (2000). Human foetuses learn odours from their pregnant mother’s diet. Chemical senses, 25 (6), 729-37 PMID: 11114151

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