Mothers who binge on junk food during pregnancy and breast-feeding directly influence the unborn child's likelihood to become a 'junk food junkie' later in life. Children of expectant women who consumed a diet high in sugar and fat are less able to resist junk food once they are born. This happens because a diet high in sugar and fat leads to changes in the fetal brain's reward pathway, altering food preferences.
These findings are based on a rat study conducted by scientists during pregnancy and lactation. One group of pregnant rats fed on standard 'rat feed' while the other group was given a high-fat, high-sugar junk food diet eaten by humans. After weaning, the baby rats were allowed to chose their between rat feed and junk food. It was observed that baby rats of mothers who were fed junk food were more likely to pick up junk food diet.
AdvertisementScientists also studied the brain of baby rats for levels of dopamine and opiods and the receptors they acted upon. Results showed that baby rats whose mums had eaten less nutritious food had more opiod receptors once they were weaned. The results of the study provides a better insight into the growing problem of obesity and gives us a better understanding about diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding so that their infants get the best start in life.