Mother, Your Baby Is What You Eat

Sugar and fat diets during pregnancy lead to diabetes and high-blood pressure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There's the old saying "you are what you eat." But new research shows that your unborn baby might become what you eat.

A recent study found that pregnant women who have diets that are high in sugar and fat are putting their babies at risk of becoming unhealthy eaters as well. This happens because the high sugar and high fat diets cause changes to the unborn baby's brain. Specifically, the brain's reward pathway develops differently, which changes the baby's food preferences.

dailyRx Insight: Avoid sugary and fatty foods if you are pregnant.

According to Beverly Muhlhausler, Ph.D., from the FOODplus Research Centre at the University of Adelaide and one of the study's authors, doctors can use these findings to help women maintain a healthy diet while they are pregnant or breastfeeding so that their babies can have the best possible start to life, avoiding diabetes and high blood pressure.

For their study, Muhlhausler and colleagues studied two groups of rats while they were pregnant and then breastfeeding. One group was fed normal rat food while the other was fed human foods high in sugar and fat. Once the baby rats had moved beyond breastfeeding, they were allowed to choose whether they want to eat the junk food or the normal rat food. The researchers also examined the brains of some baby rats to look for so-called "feel good" chemicals (i.e. dopamine and opioids).

Baby rats from mothers who ate the junk food had more opioid receptors and more commonly chose to eat junk food, compared to the babies whose mothers ate normal rat food.

Hopefully, findings like these will teach more pregnant mothers to focus on eating vegetables instead of ice cream and Twinkies, says Gerald Weissmann, M.D.

The study is published online in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (The FASEB Journal).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 24, 2011
Last Updated:
March 30, 2011