Mother's Junk Food Diet Predisposes Children to Unhealthy Life Habits
Friday, August 02, 2013 by: John Phillip
Researchers are beginning to compile an impressive wealth of scientific evidence to explain how the nutritional status, and specifically the diet of a mother during gestation, plays a critical role in setting the initial gene set or expression for the newborn child that will determine susceptibility toward many chronic diseases throughout life. It is not only important for a mother to ensure they eat to obtain a full complement of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but eating foods high in hydrogenated and oxidized fats and sugary junk foods can lead to a lifelong struggle with overeating by increasing the desire to make unhealthy food choices.
A team of scientists from the University of Adelaide in Australia have presented the results of their work to the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) which explains how eating a junk-food diet during pregnancy changes the development of the opioid signaling pathway in a baby's brain and permanently alters the way this system operates after birth. This study provides solid evidence to support the importance of obtaining proper nutrition and eating healthy when trying to conceive, and especially once a pregnancy has been confirmed.
Poor dietary habits before birth lead to increased risk of overweight and chronic illnesses for offspring
This research involved measuring and detecting opioid levels in a mouse model. Opioids are chemicals which are released when we eat foods that are high in fat and sugar, and that are responsible for causing the release of another 'feel good' chemical, dopamine. The team found that the gene responsible for encoding one of the opioids, enkephalin, was expressed at a higher level in the offspring of mothers who had consumed a junk food diet than in the offspring of mothers who ate standard rat feed.
The increased enkephalin level found in those eating an unhealthy diet provides first time evidence that the opioid signaling pathway is less sensitive in junk-food exposed offspring. Reduced sensitivity to opioids means that individuals whose mothers eat too much junk-food during pregnancy and breastfeeding would have to eat more junk foods to get the same positive response, making them more likely to over consume high-fat and high-sugar foods. Lead study author, Dr. Jessica Gugusheff concluded "the results of this study will eventually permit us to better inform pregnant women about the enduring effect their diet has on the development of their child's lifelong food preferences and risk of negative metabolic outcomes."
Continued research into the study of nutrigenomics (the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression) helps to explain why the prevalence of processed and refined junk foods is perpetuating the poor health of future generations that are now destined to be dependent on 'frankenfoods'. Our children will unknowingly and unnecessarily suffer the long-term effects of sub-standard nutrition: overweight, obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, dementia and early death.