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Diet During Pregnancy and Children’s Dietary Preferences Essay (Article)

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Updated: Apr 1st, 2022

According to recent research findings, it is likely that the flavors in a mother’s diet during pregnancy influences the dietary preferences of her infant after birth (Hepper, Wells, Dornan, & Lynch, 2013). Scientists from the Queen’s University of Belfast in Ireland and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Services in the UK made these findings. The researchers published the study in the Journal of Developmental Psychobiology. These findings assert that the human fetus can learn about its chemosensory surrounding. The fetus can then carry on certain behavioral characteristics, which might be evident at birth and during the early postnatal period. Thirty-three mothers and their children took part in the study. Sixteen mothers in the prenatal exposure group consumed three to four meals per week containing fresh garlic from the fourth week of gestation to the thirty-fifth week. The remaining seventeen mothers in the control group did not consume garlic during the same period. The children involved in the study were between eight and nine years old. The scientists gave the thirty-three children, two servings of potato gratin. The scientists added garlic flavor to one of the potato gratin servings.

The children that were exposed to garlic during their prenatal stage consumed significantly more potato gratin with garlic flavor compared to their counterparts. This led to the conclusion that children with prenatal exposure to garlic recognize its flavor after birth. Therefore, the study suggests that the prenatal environment has the potential of triggering the chemosensory stimuli of fetuses. This can influence their dietary preferences well into infancy. This finding is consistent with suspicions held by healthcare providers concerning the effects of a mother’s diet on the dietary preferences of an infant after birth (Glenn, 2007).

Previous research suggests that a growing fetus often receives flavor stimuli from the mother’s intestines during pregnancy (Kehoe, 2009). The fetus normally starts swallowing amniotic fluid during the twelfth week of gestation. The environment in which the fetus develops often changes because of the mother’s diet (Ulmer, 2010). The food she consumes at any time influences the flavor of the amniotic fluid.

The decision to use garlic in the study arose from demonstrable evidence that its smell is detectable in the amniotic fluid. For instance, garlic alters the odor of a woman’s amniotic fluid if she ingests it during pregnancy. The effect of prenatal exposure to garlic on the children’s consumption of garlic-flavored foods after eight to nine years offers great promise for influencing the dietary choices of the unborn child through prenatal chemosensory stimuli. It may be possible for mothers to influence their children to adopt certain foods during infancy by making deliberate dietary choices during pregnancy. The impact of this finding on health care delivery means that health workers can develop programs to alleviate diseases arising from dietary factors (Omachonu & Einspruch, 2010). The findings also suggest that prenatal experiences of a fetus may play a critical role in determining the long-term behavioral characteristics of the infant (Jekel, 2007).

References

Glenn, R. (2007). Bringing User Experience to Healthcare Improvement: The Concepts, Methods and Practices of Experience-based Design. Oxon: Radcliffe Publishing.

Hepper, P. G., Wells, D. L., Dornan, J. C., & Lynch, C. (2013). Long-term Flavour Recognition in Humans with Prenatal Garlic Experience. Developmental Psychobiology, 2(1), 568-574.

Jekel, J. F. (2007). Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Preventive Medicine. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Kehoe, S. N. (2009). Maternal and Infants Death: Chasing Millennium Goals 4 and 5. London: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Omachonu, V. K., & Einspruch, N. G. (2010). Innovation in Healthcare Delivery Systems: A Conceptual Framework. The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 15(1), 1-20.

Ulmer, C. (2010). Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports. Washington DC: National Academies Press.

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