According to a two-year study, a pregnant woman’s diet has a direct impact on their unborn baby’s brain and their future eating and drinking habits. They are also “sensitized” to the smells and flavors of those foods.
The researchers say that this is the first study to examine what happens to the brain after steady exposure to flavors in utero and early in postnatal life. They examined pregnant mice, giving one group a bland diet and another a flavored diet. At their weaning age, the pups who had the flavored diet had significantly larger glomeruli, the brain’s factory which processes smells. This meant that their sense of smell was changed depending on the mother’s diet.
“This highlights the importance of eating a healthy diet and refraining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy and nursing,” said Josephine Todrank, PhD, who conducted the study at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “If the mother drinks alcohol, her child may be more attracted to alcohol because the developing fetus “expects” that whatever comes from the mother must be safe. If she eats healthy food, the child will prefer healthy food.”
According to lead researcher Josephine Todrank, a fetus doesn’t discern “good” or “bad” in the womb, so whatever is presented to them is considered safe. Think of it as a way of teaching your child how to eat properly.
“Exposure to odor or flavor in the womb elicits the preference but also shapes the brain development,” said Todrank.
More research is needed to find out how long lasting the dietary influence is of an expecting mother on her future son or daughter.