Maternal diet sets up junk food addiction in babies, study finds

April 30, 2013, University of Adelaide

(Medical Xpress)—Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that mothers who eat junk food 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 during pregnancy and lactation desensitised the normal fuelled by these highly palatable foods.

Led by Dr Bev Mühlhäusler, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University's FOODplus Research Centre, this is the first study to show the effects of maternal junk at such an early stage in the offspring's life. The study was published recently in The FASEB Journal.

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," Dr Mühlhäusler says.

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.

"In the same way that someone addicted to has to consume more of the drug over time to achieve the same 'high', continually producing excess by eating too much junk food results in the need to consume more foods full of fat and sugar to get the same pleasurable sensation," says Dr Mühlhäusler.

"Mothers eating a lot of junk food while pregnant are setting up their children to be addicted.

"Although our research shows that many of the long-term health problems associated with maternal junk food diets can be avoided if offspring carefully follow a after weaning, they are always going to have a predisposition for of junk food and obesity. It's going to make it much more difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight."

Dr Mühlhäusler says it is important to try and understand the effects of the maternal diet at a very early stage in the offspring to see what systems could be targeted, if any, to reverse the problem.

Initial findings from further work, however, have suggested the alterations to the opioid receptors are permanent.

"The take-home message for women is that eating large amounts of junk food during pregnancy and while breastfeeding will have long-term consequences for their child's preference for these foods, which will ultimately have negative effects on their health," Dr Mühlhäusler says.

Explore further: Eating junk food while pregnant may make your child a junk food addict

Related Stories

Eating junk food while pregnant may make your child a junk food addict

February 28, 2013
Here's another reason why a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical to the future health of your children: New research published in the March 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, suggests that pregnant mothers who consume ...

Reward sensitivity increases food 'wanting' following television 'junk food' commercials

July 10, 2012
Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, sought to investigate personality ...

Is TV the temptress for junk food?

August 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A University of Queensland study has found that while obesity rates have been partly attributed to the easy access of cheap, high calorie food, many individuals exposed to the same food continue to lie ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.