I have three children under five, including a newborn, and would like to make sure that they prefer fruits and vegetables to junk food such as candy and other fattening snacks. Do you have any advice for me? - S.I., Beersheba Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments: The journal Pediatrics dealt with this subject last year. Research showed that you can start on such a project before a baby eats a first banana or carrot and even prior to its being born. You can do that by eating a lot of fresh produce during your pregnancy, causing the "tastes" to reach the fetus via the amniotic fluid. Then, after delivery, the baby tastes produce from your breast milk. Later, after the age of one when the baby makes the transition to solid foods, offer lots of opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables. According to researcher Dr. Julie Mennella at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, "The best predictor of how much fruits and vegetables children eat is whether they like the tastes of these foods. If we can get babies to learn to like these tastes, we can get them off to an early start of healthy eating." Her published study was aimed at testing the influence of early sensory experiences on the development of healthy eating pattern. She and a colleague studied 45 infants aged four to eight months, 20 of whom were breast-fed. All were unaccustomed to eating solids other than cereal and randomly assigned to one of two groups: Half the babies were fed green beans for eight consecutive days, while the others were given green beans and then peaches over the same period. The results revealed that breast-feeding confers an advantage for a baby's acceptance of foods during weaning - but only if the mother regularly eats those foods. During their first exposure to peaches, breast-fed infants ate more and for a longer period of time, compared to formula-fed infants. Questionnaires showed that breast-feeding mothers ate more fruits than did formula-feeding mothers, suggesting that the increased willingness of their babies to eat peaches comes from increased exposure to fruit flavors through breast milk. As both groups of mothers reported eating green beans and green vegetables only infrequently, there was no difference in the amount of green beans eaten by breast-fed and formula-fed infants the first time the vegetables were offered. But when both groups had repeated opportunities to taste green beans over eight days, their willingness to eat the vegetable increased intake by almost 300 percent. X-rays and pregnancy Judy Siegel-Itzkovich says: After a previous column discussing dental X-rays for pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant, Israeli dentist David Barrett differed with the advice by Jerusalem dentist Dr. Steve Sattler that they should have a routine X-ray and examination some two to three months before getting pregnant, and thus they need no more X-rays during pregnancy. Sattler said that if a pregnant patient needs emergency care, the dentist should take only one X-ray using a lead shield. Barrett maintained that Sattler's comments are in "complete contrast to the recommendations found in standard dental text books" and that his advice could cause women to delay essential dental treatment. During pregnancy, he said, necessary dental care can be accompanied by X-rays "with the correct lead protection and using approved apparatus without any fear or risk whatsoever to the developing fetus. A fetal dose of a set of 14 status X-rays is about 100 times less than one day of average exposure to natural background radiation." Yet, Sattler declares that there has "never been a scientific study of the safety of X-rays on the pregnant patient and that of the 36,000 studies about X-rays, nearly all deal with large doses of radiation or animal studies, with none on low doses of X-rays on pregnant women. "It is a convention and convenient for dentists to say that X-rays are safe during pregnancy, but this is not science." Thus Sattler insists that his advice is safe and correct. Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to [email protected], giving your initials, age and residence.