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Junk Food Addiction in Moms Passed to Babies

A pregnant mother’s diet is believed to be critical to her baby’s future health, and most studies show that this has something to do with the child’s growth and development. However, new research reveals that a mother’s diet could also influence her child’s future eating habits or addictions.

New research published in The FASEB Journal suggests that consuming junk food during pregnancy can cause changes in the brain involving the development of the opioid signaling pathway of unborn children. These changes result in babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are natural chemicals released upon consumption of foods that are high in sugar and fat. This in turn, make the children develop a higher “tolerance” to junk food, leading them to eat more to achieve a “feel good” response.

Beverly Muhlhausler, Ph.D., a researcher at The University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia studied the offsprings of laboratory mice which were fed either normal rat food or human junk foods during their pregnancy and lactation. These pups were given daily injections of an opioid receptor blocker after weaning. These injections block opioid signaling, prevent the release of dopamine and reduce the intake of sugar and fat. However, they found that the opioid receptor blocker was less effective in lowering fat and sugar intake in the pups whose mothers were fed with junk foods. This suggests that the opioid signaling pathway in these offsprings is less sensitive than in pups whose mothers ate standard rat food.

Muhlhausler believes that their research will allow pregnant women to be better informed about the lasting effects of their diet on the development of their child’s food preferences and on their health risks. Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal comments that a mother’s addiction to junk food is true addiction which can turn kids into junk food addicts.


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Eating junk food while pregnant may make your child a junk food addict. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Babies' Health, Healthy Eating, News Briefs, Pregnancy, Women's Health

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