- Flavors and odors change the brains of babies in the womb and while nursing.
- Early exposures have a long-term impact on what types of foods babies and children prefer.
Pregnant and nursing mothers have new reason to eat well, suggests a new study.
Flavors in a mom's diet shape her baby's brain, the study found, and that may alter her child's lifelong likes and dislikes for certain foods. The findings could help mothers start as early as possible to turn their children into healthy eaters.
"It's clear in humans that the more varied nutrition of the mom, the more open the baby is going to be to different things," said Diego Restrepo, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado, Denver. "What's new here is that what a mother eats changes the brain of her baby."
Scientists have long known that, for humans and other mammals, what a mother eats influences the flavor of her amniotic fluid and later her breast milk, said Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Research has also shown that the flavors babies are exposed to -- both in the womb and in the months after birth -- influence what they later choose to eat.