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Study Suggests Children Can Learn to Eat Smart Before They're Born

Hot & Cool Food Trends

Anyone who’s ever tried to get their child to eat healthy foods such as broccoli, spinach or other green vegetables knows how difficult a chore it can be. A new study indicates the secret may be to start early—really early…like, while the kid is still in Mom’s belly.

Researchers from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, found babies can build up a taste for healthy foods in the womb. Their study, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that flavors were passed from mother to baby via the amniotic fluid.

Flavors like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, and mint were some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother’s milk, study leader Julie Mennella told NPR.

To test the theory, researchers gave women garlic capsules or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid.

They then asked a panel of people to smell the samples. “They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic,” Dr Mennella said. Since the sense of smell is 90% of taste, that means that the babies can taste it, too.

The researchers than looked at whether memories of these flavors could be formed before birth.

A group of pregnant women were divided into three. One group was asked to drink carrot juice every day during their pregnancy, another during breastfeeding, and a third was instructed to avoid carrots altogether.

When the children began to eat solid food, researchers fed them cereal made with either water or carrot juice.

They found babies who had experienced carrot in their amniotic fluid or mother's milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal.

University of Florida taste researcher Linda Bartoshuk said Dr Mennella's research could have far-reaching implications for children's health.

“To what extent can we make a baby eat a healthier diet by exposing it to all the right flavors - broccoli, carrots, lima beans, et cetera? Could we do that or not? My guess is we could,” she told NPR News.

OK, all you pregnant moms out there, time to start eating more broccoli, spinach and carrots. Then get back to us in a year or two and let us know how it’s going with the little ones.

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