Moms who eat junk food while pregnant or during breastfeeding are setting up their babies to be addicted to a high-fat, high-sugar diet, a new study has warned.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide suggest that such mothers while pregnant have already programmed their babies to be addicted to a high fat, high sugar diet by the time they are weaned.
In laboratory studies, the researchers found that a junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation desensitised the normal reward system fuelled by these highly palatable foods.
Led by Dr Bev Muhlhausler, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University's FOODplus Research Centre, this is the first study to show the effects of maternal junk food consumption at such an early stage in the offspring's life.
Opioids are produced by the body as a reward response, including in response to fat and sugar. These opioids stimulate the production of the "feel good" hormone dopamine, which produces a good feeling. "We found that the opioid signalling pathway (the reward pathway) in these offspring was less sensitive than those whose mothers were eating a standard diet," Muhlhausler said.
This means that children being born to a mother who ate a diet dominated by junk food would need to eat more fat and sugar to get the same good feeling, increasing their preference for junk food. It would also encourage them to overeat.
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