Eating Junk Food While Pregnant Predisposes Baby To High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet

By @hyaluronidase on
Pregnant woman
A woman holds her stomach during the last stages of her pregnancy. Reuters/Regis Duvignau

New research has revealed that pregnant moms who crave for junk food, especially during the last stages of pregnancy, are likely to give birth to babies who will later on become addicted to high-fat, high-sugar diet upon being weaned. The latest research is based on previous work in 2013 by the researchers at University of Adelaide where they have found that there are two critical stages in a person’s life where cravings for junk food are the strongest. These “critical windows” occur during the last trimester of pregnancy and adolescence, stressing more consequences for females.

Pregnant moms who eat a lot of junk food will have babies that tend to like junk food more. However, according to lead research fellow Dr Beverly Mühlhäusler, “if you get in early enough there is an opportunity to reverse the effects, especially in males,” she said.

The study was published in the FASEB Journal and it concluded that pregnant mums consuming junk food will help desensitise their offspring to the normal reward system. “We found that the opioid signalling pathway (the reward pathway) in these offspring was less sensitive than those whose mothers were eating a standard diet,” said Mühlhäusler. Children of mothers who had a high-fat, high-sugar diet during their pregnancy are more likely to crave more sugar and fatty food than healthier food options.

Mulhausler likened this response to addiction – the same way a person gets addicted to opioid drugs and will likely get more drugs just to achieve the “high” they want. Eating too much junk food will continually produce opioids, which then results to more junk food cravings to achieve that pleasurable sensation.  As to why these critical windows fall on the latest stages of pregnancy and adolescence, Malhaulser explained that the brain grows at the fastest rate during these periods and “is therefore most susceptible to alteration at these times.” 

The research team only hopes that the published study will call on pregnant women to make better decisions when it comes to their diet, as there are health effects on children as they grow older.

To contact the writer, email: