Junk Food During Pregnancy Affects Child

junk_food_pregnancyMom’s junk food diet during pregnancy can turn her child into a junk food junkie, according to a new study published in The FASEB Journal.  The findings suggest that pregnant women who eat junk food actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signaling pathway in the brains of their unborn children. This leads to the babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are released when we eat high-fat and high-sugar foods.  In turn, these children, born with what the researchers refer to as a higher “tolerance” to junk food need to consume more of it to achieve a “feel good” response. The study, which was conducted in a rodent model, shows that addiction to junk food is true addiction,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.  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.”

High in fat and sugar, junk food can contribute to maternal obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy.  When a mother begins a pregnancy obese, it increases several significant health risks for both mother and baby—such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and premature delivery.  Recently, a new small study showed that the first signs of heart disease can be observed in the newborns of obese mothers. Published online in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease of Childhood, the study reported that the walls of the body’s major artery, called the aorta, were already thickened in babies born to overweight or obese moms.  The arterial thickening–a sign of heart disease–was independent of the child’s weight at birth. The study looked at 23 pregnant women with Body Mass Index (BMI) ranging from 17 to 42 kg/m2. BMI of 25 kg/m2 or greater is considered overweight, while BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater is considered obese. In each of the newborns, the abdominal aorta, which is the section of the artery extending down to the belly, was scanned in each newborn within a week of birth to find out the thickness of the two innermost walls. The researchers found that the thickness ranged from 0.65mm to 0.97mm, and was associated with the mother’s weight: the higher the mother’s weight, the greater the thickness, regardless of how much the baby’s birth weight. The difference between babies of overweight and normal weight moms was 0.06mm.

Studies such as these highlight the importance of perspective mothers reaching a healthy weight prior to conception, and to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy.  More and more research is demonstrating how much influence a mother’s body weight has over the health of her offspring.  You can read more about pregnancy and obesity here.

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