Mothers-to-be who gorge on fatty snacks can turn their children into 'junk food junkies'
Junk foods 'have the same effect on the body's chemistry as opium, heroin, and morphine'Pregnant women who eat junk food cause changes to their unborn babies' brainsThis means the child must eat more junk food to get the same satisfaction
12:13 GMT, 1 March 2013
12:23 GMT, 1 March 2013
Mothers-to-be who eat junk food change the development of signalling pathways in their babies' brains
Pregnant women who munch on foods high in fat and sugar can turn their children into 'junk food junkies,' a researcher has warned.
Junk foods have the same effect on the body's chemistry as opium, heroin, and morphine, according to the study.
So craving a burger, packet of crisps or a fizzy drink really is an addiction, the researchers claim.
The Australian research suggests that pregnant women who eat junk food actually cause changes in the development of the signalling pathway in the brains of their unborn children.
This change makes babies less sensitive to the opioids which are released when they eat foods that are high in fat and sugar.
This means they then build up a greater 'tolerance' and need to eat more of it to achieve a 'feel good' response.
'This study shows that addiction to junk food is a true addiction,' said Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, where the research was published.
'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.'
The 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 signalling.
Blocking opioid signalling lowers the
intake of fat and sugar by preventing the release of dopamine – a
neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure
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.
suggested that the opioid signalling pathway in these offspring is less
sensitive than for pups whose mothers are eating a standard rat feed.
Craving a burger, packet of crisps or a fizzy drink really is an addiction, the researchers claim
Dr Beverly Muhlhausler, of The
University of Adelaide said: '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.
'Hopefully, this will encourage mothers to make healthier diet choices which will lead to healthier children.'
The discovery comes just after scientists at Sydney University, Australia, warned that babies whose mothers are overweight or obese show early signs of heart disease at birth.
Scans of newborn infants with fat mothers found they have thicker artery walls – a sign of heart disease – than those born to women of ‘normal’ weight.
The arterial thickening occurred independently of the child’s weight at birth, which is a known risk factor for heart disease or stroke in later life.