More and more studies are finding that what mom eats can have a big impact on baby, including future health status and food preferences. Yes, eating healthy while pregnant nursing can have positive lasting effects on baby’s health and may even encourage healthy food preferences later in life. A new study found, however, that the converse may also be true when it comes to junk food.
The Federation of American Societies for Environmental Biology (FASEB) researchers found that mums who eat high fat, high sugar diets may have babies who are junk food eaters as well. The rat study found that maternal junk food laden diets actually lead to changes in the fetal brain’s reward pathways ultimately altering food preferences.
The new report not only lends valuable insight into current obesity epidemic, but may also explain why it is difficult for some people to back away from the chips and candy. Study co-author Beverly Muhlhausler, PhD, explains: “These results will help us to better help women about diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding for giving their infants the best start in life.”
Researchers divided rats into 2 groups whom throughout pregnancy and lactation were fed different diets. One group was fed the standard ‘rat chow’ while the other group was given a junk food diet of standard human foods high in fat and sugar. After the pups were weaned, they were allowed to choose their own diet from either the junk food or standard chow. Not surprisingly, the pups of mums who ate junk food also preferred the junk food diet when compared with the standard chow pups. Random brain examination of the pups looked at levels of the “feel good” brain chemicals like dopamine and opioids, as well as the number of receptors for those brain chemicals. The pups of the mums who ate junk food had higher levels of opioid receptors than the other pups, which sets a biochemical predisposition for food choices.
What this Means for Mums
Although preliminary this study suggests, along with other studies of this nature, that what you eat has a big impact on what your baby will eat as well as their future health. This is not to say that giving in to those pregnancy cravings will forever skew your baby’s diet, because sometimes a little junk food is ok- occasionally. The operative word being occasionally as junk foods should not comprise the bulk of dietary intake nor take the place of nutrient dense foods. Check out the Healthy Pregnancy Eating Guide for more information on eating healthy throughout pregnancy.