Got a taste for spicy Mexican food? Chances are that your mother does, too.
A study from Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center (MCSC) suggests that children can adopt their mothers' food preferences through the flavors in her breast milk and amniotic fluid. Study author Julie Mennella, Ph.D., a MCSC behavioral scientist, assigned 46 pregnant women to one of three groups. Women in the first group drank carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy and water during lactation; the second group did the opposite; and the third group drank only water throughout.
Later, Mennella observed the infants eating cereal prepared with carrot juice one day and water another. She found that those infants who were exposed to carrot flavoring ate an average of three times more carrot-flavored cereal than did infants whose mothers drank only water.
Mennella suggests that mother's milk may act as a medium for early flavor experiences, giving infants a taste of their culture even before birth. "Infants learn what foods are safe by flavor cues in the amniotic fluid and mother's milk," she said.