Junk food can be very appealing for a variety of reasons including taste and convenience. Although most of us know that it is unhealthy, we often find it difficult to say no to junk food. A new study has pointed towards mother's diet during late pregnancy and diet during adolescence, when exposure to junk food is most harmful, particularly for female offspring.
Jessica Gugusheff, post-doctoral researcher at University of Adelaide in Australia, said, "Our research suggests that too much junk food consumed late in pregnancy for humans has the potential to be more harmful to the child than excess junk food early in the pregnancy. Importantly, it also indicates that if excess junk food was consumed by the mother in those early stages of pregnancy, there may be a chance to reduce those negative effects on the baby by eating a healthy diet in late pregnancy."
The study reveals that the second critical window to turn away junk food cravings emerges during adolescence. Gugusheff said, "We have found differences between males and females. Our experiments showed that eating a healthy diet during adolescence could reverse the junk-food preference in males but not females."
Researchers believe the junk food preference results from a desensitization of the normal reward system (the opioid and dopamine signalling pathway) fueled by highly palatable high fat, high sugar diets. Children with less sensitive reward systems need more fat and sugar to get the same 'good feeling'. Beverly Mühlhäusler from University of Adelaide, who was the project leader said, "This brain area grows at its fastest during these critical windows and is therefore most susceptible to alteration at these times."
The study is published in FASEB