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It’s hard to get some kids to eat their veggies and some of this is simply down to time and patience to be sure. But, scientists in the UK have completed a study which looks at some of the foods that babies either love or hate- even before they are born. This study was recently published in the scientific journal Psychological Science and looked at 99 fetuses’ reactions to different foods. As it turns out there are some very basic preferences that appear to be already present even before birth- if facial expressions are anything to go on.

The study was undertaken by researchers at Durham University and looked at 99 white women’s pregnancies from 26 weeks onwards. The women were given either a pill containing powdered carrot or powdered kale.

Then after a waiting period for the capsules to digest the women were given 4D ultrasound scans (at both 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy). These are the higher resolution scans that show the faces of the fetuses and are a good representation of what the baby will look like when it’s born.

Via: Anastasiia Chepinska/Unsplash

What researchers found was that the fetuses made a pleased or neutral expression when their mothers ingested the carrot pill. But, these same scans showed that the fetus’ faces were posed in grimaces when the flavor of the kale hit them. Facial movements such as lip puckering, nose wrinkling, and cheek raising were measured and studied to determine which movements were consistent across the different scans.

While previous research had showed that social smiles didn’t begin to happen until the age of 2 months after birth, this new research seems to show that the taste and smell centers of the brain (known as chemosensors) are active well before birth and can greatly affect their facial expressions.

Via: Armando Arauz/Unsplash

The preferences aren’t exactly surprising considering that many people who eat solid food prefer the sweet taste of carrots to kale. In the US kale was largely considered merely a garnish for years before being accepted as a true food, albeit one that mainly appeals to health conscious people. The texture is very fibrous, but the taste is slightly bitter and has no discernible sweetness as all.

It’s unclear exactly how much the fetuses can taste from what their mothers eat, as their nutrition is delivered via the umbilical cord. But, they swallow amniotic fluid every day in the womb which has been shown to carry other strong flavors in past studies.

Via: Laura Johnston/Unsplash

However, it seems obvious from their scowls that the fetuses don’t prefer the kale! Perhaps this explains why there are so many jars of baby food with carrots in them since they are preferred in the womb.

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