Can unborn babies taste junkfood?

babies with a taste for junk food?I recently had my mind blown. It happened while we were preparing for an interview with Dr. Brian Wansink at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. In his book, Dr. Wansink mentions a study by Dr. Julie Mennella. In her research, Dr. Mennella had pregnant women consume carrot juice four days a week during the last three weeks of pregnancy and again for the first two months of lactation.

Once the infants were old enough to eat baby cereal, they tested the various groups with a plain cereal and a cereal made with carrot juice.

Get this…the babies of women who consumed the carrot juice during pregnancy were significantly more likely to desire carrot flavor themselves. They also would eat more carrot flavored cereal.

That, in my opinion, is a big deal,because the implications are HUGE.

How is it possible?

Many studies hold out that prenatal exposure to sounds can influence infants. For example, the sound of a mother’s voice is indelibly etched into a newborn babies brain; children will react differently to music that was played to them while they were in the womb. Dr. Mennella’s study shows that the baby is also exposed to the foods a mother eats on a sensory level. It is a well known fact that the flavor of breast milk can be affected by things such as garlic and anise. If such a correlation can be drawn for carrot juice…what about things like artificial flavors and even high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

The generation born since 1976 is the first generation to have HFCS prenatally. The ill effects associated with over consumption of HFCS has been well documented. Dr. Robert Lustig at UCSF has even gone as far as describing HFCS as “toxic to our cells”. It is his belief that HFCS may considerably influence the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Things such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Is this really that big of a deal? Consider the fact that in Alabama, pregnant women who use drugs that harm their fetus can be prosecuted under the state’s new chemical endangerment law. What about junk food? If Dr.Lustig is correct, and HFCS is found to be toxic, history may look back at this generation and wag their heads in disbelief.

Creating Junk Food “Junkies”?

Is it possible that increasing rates of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity are connected to this mother/baby link phenomena? Based on what we already know the more accurate question is: Why would we believe there is NO connection? Clearly HFCS isn’t the only factor in the skyrocketing increase in the diabetes endemic. It is part of a constellation of factors. I am interested Dr. Mennella’s study because it indicates we might be predisposing children to unhealthy food lives by our actions before and during infancy, not just via our later behavior or genetics.

We need to get to the bottom of this because this gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “eating for two.”

Lathe Poland is one of the creators of Carb-Loaded a documentary film that examines the causes of the diabetes epidemic.


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