The Museum of Hoaxes

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A collection of strange and curious science miscellanea brought to you by the author of Elephants on Acid and Electrified Sheep
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If a pregnant woman eats garlic, does it change the smell of her amniotic fluid? - 1995
In a 1995 study led by Julie Mennella of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a panel of adults was given two clear substances to smell. The substances were presented to them in plastic squeeze bottles, at room temperature. The panelists were asked to state which of the substances smelled more strongly of garlic.

What the panelists didn't know is that the substances they were sniffing was amniotic fluid, taken from ten pregnant women who had undergone routine amniocentesis. Five of these women had been given garlic pills to swallow shortly before the procedure, while the other five had been given placebo capsules. The experiment was an effort to determine the extent to which the garlic would alter the odor of the amniotic fluid.

The larger purpose behind all this was to investigate the sensory environment fetuses are exposed to in utero — the theory being that whatever food the mother eats ends up being sampled by the fetus as well. The researchers suspected that adult food preferences are strongly influenced by the tastes people are exposed to in their mother's womb. Therefore, the experiment was designed to demonstrate that strongly flavored foods definitely can alter the smell of the amniotic fluid, and will therefore be experienced by the fetus. The authors of the study explained:

Because the normal fetus swallows significant amounts of amniotic fluid during the latter stages of gestation and has open airway passages which are bathed in amniotic fluid, the fetus may also be exposed to a variety of chemosensory experiments in utero. The environment in which the fetus lives, the amnion, can indeed be odorous... In the present study, we describe the first experimental evidence in humans that volatiles from the pregnant woman's diet are transmitted to amniotic fluid.

The result: the panelists quite easily identified the garlicky amniotic fluid. So if you love garlic, it could be because your mother ate a lot of it while pregnant with you.
Posted By: alex | Date: Thu Aug 11, 2011
Category: Human Subjects, Sensation, Smell, Taste, 1980-1999, United States, Nutrition and Food,
Some other topics you might find interesting:
Mom didn't like liver & onions and I don't either and now I know why! Gee! I'm sure gland the major bucks spent on this one didn't go to waste.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 08/11 at 10:02 AM
Little Known Fact: The children of the mothers who had the placebo became addicted to them as they grew up and are now running around labs trying to hit up the scientists for some more.
Posted by Fluffy Bunny Slippers on 08/11 at 09:50 PM
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