What You Eat When Pregnant Could Affect the Reward System in Your Baby’s Brain

What You Eat When Pregnant Could Affect the Reward System in Your Baby’s Brain

Eating fatty foods in pregnancy could set your child up to prefer them.

Pregnant and feel like eating thirty bags of chips, a large pizza and then some? Been there.

Pregnancy food is enticing and extra weight can be easy to put on. It can also be very hard to lose. Unfortunately, the straight truth is that you’re not doing yourself any favors, or your child, by racking up the pounds.

It all comes down to the type of food you eat. A study recently published in Frontiers in Endocrinology indicates that if you gain weight when you’re pregnant by eating junk food, you could be changing your child’s eating preferences right from the get-go.

Here’s the scoop. Researchers fed rats junk food during their pregnancy to see what would happen. The results?

The mother rats gave birth to pups who strongly preferred eating fatty food immediately after they stopped suckling. Once the baby rats grew up, they continued to experience altered brain circuitry into adulthood.

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The biggest difference between the rats who had free access to fatty food versus those that didn’t were changes that happened in the brain. The reward circuitry in the region of the hypothalamus was different and there were changes in gene expression associated with the neurotransmitter GABA.

Researchers don’t know exactly how this played out in the rats’ eating habits overall, but they suspect it could have caused the pups to behave differently under stress, or when they had easy access to fatty foods, over their lifetime.

Sure, humans aren’t rodents but the whole scenario does make you want to reach for a spinach salad with granola the next time you get the munchies, doesn’t it?

Photo credits: Supplyphotos/Bigstock

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