Now there's another reason why a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical to the future health of a child. New research from Australia suggests that pregnant mothers who consume junk food actually cause changes in the development of the brains of their unborn children.
This change may result in babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are released upon consumption of foods that are high in fat and sugar. In turn, these children are born with a higher tolerance to junk food need to eat more of it to achieve a feel good response.
To make this discovery, the research team studied the pups of two groups of rats, one of which had been fed a normal rat food and the other which had been fed a range of human "junk foods" during pregnancy and lactation. After weaning, the pups were given daily injections of an opioid receptor blocker, which blocks opioid signaling.
Blocking opioid signaling lowers the intake of fat and sugar by preventing the release of dopamine. Results showed that the opioid receptor blocker was less effective at reducing fat and sugar intake in the pups of the junk food fed mothers, suggesting that the opioid signaling pathway in these offspring is less sensitive than for pups whose mothers are eating a standard rat feed.
"This study 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."
Source: The FASEB Journal, March 2013
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