Likings for food 'are learnt in the womb'

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The Independent Online

Lifelong culinary tastes begin in the womb with food flavours transmitted by mother to their unborn children, an American study has shown.

Lifelong culinary tastes begin in the womb with food flavours transmitted by mother to their unborn children, an American study has shown.

The scientists who did the research, at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said that being exposed to flavours during the last few weeks in the womb or the first few months after birth could explain why food was such a strong cultural determinant.

"The food habits of a people often mirror their cultural beliefs and values and are said to be among the last characteristics of a culture that are lost during the migration of an individual or group into a new culture," said Julie Mennella, who led the study.

"Thus it is not surprising that many cultures place great importance on establishing similar patterns of food habits early in life," she said.

Of the women who took part in the study, 45 drank carrot juice either while pregnant or only during breast feeding. At the age of six months, the infants were fed cereal mixed with either carrot juice or water. Those whose mothers had drunk juice at some point showed a clear preference to eating cereals with carrot juice, compared with the mothers in a control group who had drunk no carrot juice at all.

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