We know that it’s important for women eat more during pregnancy, but it’s also important not to overeat while pregnant. Doing so can lead to unhealthy obesity and new research shows it can also lead to changes in your baby’s brain.
A recent study shows that people whose mothers are overweight during pregnancy are more likely to become obese themselves. Overeating rewires their brains, so they crave unhealthy foods as they develop. The news comes via a Rutgers Study published in Molecular Metabolism.
The study involved researchers allowing mice to get obese on unlimited unhealthy foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Other mice were fed healthy foods to maintain a normal weight. They found that mice born to obese mothers can stay slim on a healthy diet but have a greater tendency to overeat unhealthy foods as compared to mice born to slim mothers.
This indicates that people born to overweight mothers can stay on a healthy diet but may overeat when presented with treats.
The study may also provide insight into brain-altering drugs that reduce unhealthy food cravings.
“People born to overweight or obese mothers tend to be heavier in adulthood than people born to leaner mothers, and experiments like this suggest that the explanation goes beyond environmental factors such as learning unhealthy eating habits in childhood,” said Mark Rossi, senior author study and professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“Overnutrition during pregnancy and nursing appears to rewire the brains of developing children, and possibly, future generations,” he went on to say.
What the Study Involved
The experiment involved researchers giving high-fat food to three sister mice and healthy food to another three of their sisters. Once breastfeeding was complete, they analyzed the almost 50 baby mice who exhibited heavier or lighter weights based on their mothers’ diets.
Their weights were similar after they received a diet of healthy food, but they began diverging when unhealthy food was introduced. All the mice overate, but the ones born to obese mothers consumed more treats than the other mice.
Further analysis reveals that the behavior was likely to stem from different connections between the brain’s amygdala and hypothalamus caused by their mothers’ diets during pregnancy.
The study concludes that people who have trouble maintaining a healthy weight may have some success by avoiding healthy food altogether. It indicates that trying to eat junk in moderation may lead to overconsumption and obesity.
The study’s findings about disrupted brain cells leading to obesity may provide guidelines for the creation of drugs that would limit a person’s cravings for unhealthy foods.
“There’s more work to do because we don’t yet fully understand how these changes are happening, even in mice. But each experiment tells us a little more, and each little bit we learn about the processes that drive overeating may uncover a strategy for potential therapies,” Rossi said.