Mom's Smelly Belly

Study shows pregnant mother's diet impacts infant's sense of smell, taste preferences

(RxWiki News) A pregnant mother not only sensitizes her fetus to the smells and flavors of her diet, but what she eats also physically alters the fetus' brain.

This effect directly impacts what the infant eats and drinks in the future. Researchers found that the pups of mice like the flavors in their mothers' diets because their sense of smell is changed by what their mothers eat. Researchers also discovered significant changes in the structure of the brain's olfactory glomeruli, which processes smells. Odors in the amniotic fluid help determine how this system develops.

"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 two-year study as a visiting scientist 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."

The study has profound implications since a number of diseases and illnesses are directly informed by the foods and beverages we eat and drink.

"Many diseases plaguing society involve excess consumption or avoidance of certain kinds of foods," said Restrepo, a professor of cell and developmental biology. "Understanding the factors that determine choice and ingestion, particularly the early factors, is important in designing strategies to enhance the health of the infant, child, and adult."

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Review Date: 
December 1, 2010