"Long before it's in the papers"
June 04, 2013

RETURN TO THE WORLD SCIENCE HOME PAGE


“Junk food” moms may risk having “junk food” babies

March 25, 2011
Courtesy of Federation of American 
Societies for Experimental Biology
and World Science staff

A study with rats sug­gests that preg­nant and breast­feed­ing wom­en who eat lots of fat and sug­ar will likely have chil­dren with the same habits, re­search­ers say.

Ac­cord­ing to their re­port, pub­lished on­line in The FASEB Jour­nal, this hap­pens be­cause the junky di­et leads to changes in the fe­tal brain’s re­ward path­way, al­ter­ing food pref­er­ences.

“How iron­ic that your moth­er nags you to eat your fruits and veg­eta­bles, but it could have been her ac­tions that helped you to pre­fer junk food!” said Ger­ald Weiss­mann, editor-in-chief of the re­search jour­nal, published by the Feder­ation of Am­eri­can So­cieties for Ex­peri­ment­al Bio­logy. “Per­haps in the fu­ture, stud­ies like these will con­vince preg­nant moms to go heav­i­er on the green veg­eta­bles and a lit­tle light­er on the ice cream and Twinkies.”

Sci­en­tists added that the study may of­fer in­sight in­to the ever-increasing rate of hu­man obes­ity and ex­plain why some peo­ple easily re­sist fat­ty and sug­ary foods, while oth­ers seem hope­lessly ad­dict­ed. “These re­sults will help us to bet­ter help wom­en about di­et dur­ing preg­nan­cy and breast­feed­ing for giv­ing their in­fants the best start in life,” said study co-author Bev­erly Muhlhausler of the Un­ivers­ity of Ad­e­laide in Aus­tral­ia.

Muhlhausler and col­leagues stud­ied two groups of rats which, dur­ing preg­nan­cy and lacta­t­ion, were ei­ther fed stand­ard rat feed or a junk di­et made up of sug­ary and fat­ty foods com­monly eat­en by hu­mans. Af­ter the ba­by rats were weaned, the pups from both groups were al­lowed to choose their own di­ets from ei­ther the same range of junk food or the stand­ard rat chow. 

Brains from some of the pups al­so were col­lect­ed at dif­fer­ent times and meas­ured for the lev­els of “feel-good” chem­i­cals known as dopamine and opi­oids. Al­so meas­ured were the lev­els of mo­lec­u­lar struc­tures, or re­cep­tors, as­so­ci­at­ed with the trans­mis­sion of these chem­i­cals. The sci­en­tists found that the group of rats whose moth­ers had eat­en the junk food di­et had high­er lev­els of the re­cep­tor for opi­oids af­ter they were weaned, and chose to eat more of the fat­ty foods.


* * *

Send us a comment on this story, or send it to a friend









 

Sign up for
e-newsletter
   
 
subscribe
 
cancel

On Home Page         

LATEST

  • Meet­ing on­line may lead to hap­pier mar­riages

  • Pov­erty re­duction, environ­mental safe­guards go hand in hand: UN re­port

EXCLUSIVES

  • Was black­mail essen­tial for marr­iage to evolve?

  • Plu­to has even cold­er “twin” of sim­ilar size, studies find

  • Could simple an­ger have taught people to coop­erate?

  • Diff­erent cul­tures’ mu­sic matches their spe­ech styles, study finds

MORE NEWS

  • F­rog said to de­scribe its home through song

  • Even r­ats will lend a help­ing paw: study

  • D­rug may undo aging-assoc­iated brain changes in ani­mals

A study with rats suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women who eat lots of fat and sugar will likely have children with the same habits, researchers say. According to their report, published online in The FASEB Journal, this happens because the junky diet leads to changes in the fetal brain’s reward pathway, altering food preferences. “How ironic that your mother nags you to eat your fruits and vegetables, but it could have been her actions that helped you to prefer junk food!” said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the research journal. “Perhaps in the future, studies like these will convince pregnant moms to go heavier on the green vegetables and a little lighter on the ice cream and Twinkies.” Scientists added that the study may offer insight into the ever-increasing rate of human obesity and explain why some people easily resist fatty and sugary foods, while others seem hopelessly addicted. “These results will help us to better help women about diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding for giving their infants the best start in life,” said study co-author Beverly Muhlhausler of the University of Adelaide in Australia. Muhlhausler and colleagues studied two groups of rats which, during pregnancy and lactation, were either fed standard rat feed or a junk diet made up of sugary and fatty foods commonly eaten by humans. After the baby rats were weaned, the pups from both groups were allowed to choose their own diets from either the same range of junk food or the standard rat chow. Brains from some of the pups also were collected at different times and measured for the levels of “feel-good” chemicals known as dopamine and opioids. Also measured were the levels of molecular structures, or receptors, associated with the transmission of these chemicals. The scientists found that the group of rats whose mothers had eaten the junk food diet had higher levels of the receptor for opioids after they were weaned, and chose to eat more of the fatty foods.