Mothers who eat junk food during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be putting their children at risk of overeating and developing obesity, according to a study funded by the Wellcome Trust and carried out at the Royal Veterinary College, London. The research suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women should not indulge in fatty, sugary and salty foods under the misguided assumption that they are "eating for two".
The study(1), published today in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that rats fed a diet of processed junk food such as doughnuts, muffins, biscuits, crisps and sweets during pregnancy and lactation gave birth to offspring which overate and had a preference for junk foods rich in fat, sugar and salt when compared to the offspring of rats given regular feed. The research team behind the study believe the findings have implications for humans.
Obesity is a major cause of disease, associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. According to a report by the World Health Organization(2), around 1.6 billion humans were classified as overweight worldwide in 2005 and 400 million were obese. Obesity affects populations increasingly earlier in life with over 20 million children under the age of five being classed as overweight.
"Our study has shown that eating large quantities of junk food when pregnant and breastfeeding could impair the normal control of appetite and promote an exacerbated taste for junk food in offspring," says lead author Dr Stphanie Bayol. "This could send offspring on the road to obesity and make the task of teaching healthy eating habits in children even more challenging.
Controlling appetite is complex, involving hormones which signal to the brain to regulate energy balance, hunger and satiety (feeling of fullness). However, feeding is not only a matter of regulating energy balance; it is also a pleasurable experience that involves ?reward centres in the brain, suc
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