Eating Junk Food During Pregnancy Could Harm Your Baby
Posted Nov 21 2008 4:30pm
If you have a poor diet while you are pregnant or breastfeeding you could cause long-term damage to your child, animal studies have found. The offspring of rats that were fed fatty, processed food had high levels of fat in their bloodstream and around major organs even after adolescence.
The study, by the Royal Veterinary College and London’s Wellcome Trust, features in The Journal of Physiology. Previous studies by the same team have already shown that rats whose mothers were fed junk food during pregnancy and breastfeeding were more likely to crave similar snacks themselves. However, even when weaned off this diet themselves, the damage may already have been done, they suggest.
Dr Stephanie Bayol, one of the researchers, said: “It seems that a mother’s diet whilst pregnant and breastfeeding is very important for the long-term health of her child. We always say: ‘You are what you eat’, but in fact it may also be true that you are what your mother ate.”
Implicated in the development of type II diabetes, particular concern was raised toward fat gathering around the major organs. The rats with unhealthy mothers were found more likely to have this, even if they were weaned off the junk food diet.
There were interesting differences between the sexes, with the male offspring of unhealthy mothers showing higher levels of insulin and normal blood sugar, while the reverse was true of females, who also tended to be fatter.
Professor Neil Stickland, another of the researchers said, “Humans share a number of fundamental biological systems with rats, so there is good reason to assume the effects we see in rats may be repeated in humans.”
He said that studies in humans had “found links between the weight of parents and the weight of their children.”
Dr Pat Goodwin, from the Wellcome Trust, said that “the study supported the growing evidence that there were many different risk factors which could contribute to someone becoming overweight. Pregnancy can be a difficult time for many mothers, but it is important that they are aware that what they eat may affect their offspring.”
However, Dr Simon Langley-Evans, a nutrition researcher from the University of Nottingham, said that the study “did not prove that a mother’s diet could affect the health of offspring beyond the effect on cravings and appetite,” adding, “I’m not convinced they have shown this – everything you are seeing here could be the result of obesity caused by increased appetite. What it does show is that this early influence from the mother is very important.”