Pregnancy Changes Perception of Odors and Tastes

Image: Credit: © MPI of Neurobiology/ Friedrich/NAUTILUS
The perception and reactions to odors and tastes can change in pregnancy, sometimes dramatically. This is also true for flies. The mechanisms, however, that trigger these changes are not understood in either mammals or insects.

By Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology | NAUTILUS

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried now succeeded in demonstrating that the concentration of a certain receptor increases in the sensory organs of gravid fruit fly females. As a result, the taste and odor of important nutrients, called polyamines, are processed differently in the brain: Pregnant flies favor nutrition that is rich in polyamines and increase their reproductive success in this way.

A pregnancy represents a huge challenge for the mother’s body. To provide optimal nutrition for the developing offspring, her nutrition must be adapted to the altered requirements. “We wanted to find out whether and how expectant mothers can sense the nutrients they need,” explains Ilona Grunwald Kadow, Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology.

Polyamines are nutrients that can be produced by both the body itself and by intestinal bacteria. However, some of the polyamines needed must be obtained from food. With advancing age, the consumption of polyamines through food increases in importance, as the body’s own production declines. Polyamines play a role in numerous cell processes and a polyamine deficiency can have a negative impact on health, cognition, reproduction, and life expectancy.

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