Do bad eating habits form in the womb?

Moms-to-be who indulge in too much junk food during pregnancy might be setting their kids up for poor eating habits later in life, according to a study at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

The research is the first evidence to show that addiction to high-sugar and high-fat foods can be confirmed at such a young age, as babies demonstrated a preference for these foods after being weaned.

Junk food changes the baby's brain

Study leader Bev Muhlhausier, from the school's FOODplus Research Center, said that babies born to mothers who eat high amounts of junk food are likely born with this type of addiction, which changes opioid signaling in the brain.

"We found that the opioid signalling pathway (the reward pathway) in these offspring was less sensitive than in those whose mothers were eating a standard diet," Muhlhausier said in a press release.

Babies with this problem are not unlike drug addicts who have built up a tolerance to their drug of choice – they need more fat and sugar to experience the same pleasurable feelings from food.

Effects may not be reversible

Now, the researchers are investigating whether or not this type of problem can be reversed in a child's early years, yet early results show the junk food preferences continue into adulthood.

"Eating large amounts of junk food during pregnancy and while breastfeeding will have long-term consequences for their child's preference for these foods, which will ultimately have negative effects on their health," Muhlhausler said.

Source: The University of Adelaide

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