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Study shows pregnant mother's diet impacts infant's sense of smell
Date:12/1/2010

study, Todrank, now a research fellow with collaborator Giora Heth, PhD, at the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa, Israel, fed one group of pregnant and nursing mice a bland diet and another a flavored diet. At weaning age, the pups from mothers on the flavored diet had significantly larger glomeruli than those on the bland diet. They also preferred the same flavor their mother ate, while the other pups had no preference.

"Exposure to odor or flavor in the womb elicits the preference but also shapes the brain development," said Todrank, whose work was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and was published Dec. 1, 2010 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a major biological research journal.

"From the fetus' point of view, whatever is in the womb is considered "good". If your mother ate it and survived to give birth to you then it was probably safe," she said. "This is a good strategy for a mouse that is foraging for food. It treats those same foods as safe."

Due to the similarities in mammalian development, she said, there is no reason to think that experiments would produce different results in humans.

"What an expectant mother chooses to eat and drink has long-term effects for better or worse on her child's sensory anatomy as well his or her odor memory and food preferences in the future," Todrank said. "It is not yet clear how long these changes and preferences last, but we are currently investigating that question."


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Contact: David Kelly
david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-503-7990
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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