Expectant moms who consume a steady diet of salty snacks, fat-laden foods, and sugary drinks run the risk of giving birth to kids who are predisposed to become junk food addicts, according to new research.
Scientists with the University of Adelaide in Australia said their studies of laboratory rats suggest pregnant women who chow down on junk food cause measurable developmental changes in the “pleasure centers” of their unborn children’s brains that make them more likely to crave less-nutritious foods as children.
The study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's FASEB Journal, found the brains of such children may become
less sensitive to natural chemicals released when high-fat sugary foods are consumed and therefore need to eat more of them to feel satisfied.
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"The results of this research will ultimately allow us to better inform pregnant women about the lasting effect their diet has on the development of their child's lifelong good preferences and risk of metabolic disease," said Beverly Muhlhausler, a researcher with Adelaide’s School of Agriculture Food and Wine. "Hopefully, this will encourage mothers to make healthier diet choices which will lead to healthier children."
To reach their conclusions, Muhlausler and her colleagues studied two groups of rats, one of which had been fed a normal diet and the other a range of human junk foods during pregnancy and lactation. The results showed that the brains of the pups of the junk food-fed mothers were less sensitive than the others to chemical changes triggered by high-fat sugary foods.
Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor of the FASEB Journal, said the findings of the study show “addiction to junk food is true addiction." He added: "Junk food engages the same body chemistry as opium, morphine or heroin. Sad to say, junk food during pregnancy turns the kids into junk food junkies."
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