Results of a new study to be presented at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Hawaii suggest that having a sweet tooth for high-fat, sugary foods during pregnancy or lactation could increase the possibility that the baby may be susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse later in life.
Researchers led by University of Florida's Nicole Avena conducted the study on rats, feeding them a high-fat diet, made up of 50 percent of calories from fat, 25 percent from carbohydrates, and 25 percent from protein, during their pregnancies.
The researchers later switched the offspring with those born to mothers who were given a normal diet. They found that rats who were born to high-fat diet mothers or nursed from them displayed sensitivity to amphetamine.
"Our findings suggest that even while [rats are] still in the womb, exposure to high-fat and sugar-rich diets can, in addition to increasing body weight, lead to a predisposition to drink alcohol and a sensitivity to drugs. The majority of women in the U.S. at child-bearing age are overweight, and this is most likely due to overeating the tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods you find everywhere in our society. The rise in prenatal and childhood obesity, and the rise in number of youths abusing alcohol and drugs, merits looking into all the possible roots of these growing problems", Avena said.