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Babies are what you eat

Researchers working out of the Royal Veterinary College of London have arrived at the conclusion that women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding and eating junk food may be condemning their children to a life plagued with ill-health and obesity. This turns on its head the ...

Researchers working out of the Royal Veterinary College of London have arrived at the conclusion that women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding and eating junk food may be condemning their children to a life plagued with ill-health and obesity. This turns on its head the old adage, 'you are what you eat' to 'you are what your mother eats'. A follow-up study recently published in the Journal of Physiology is clearly showing that the mother¿s diet not only has an immediate impact on the health of the child, but an impact that carries on well into adolescence. What this means is that mothers who follow an unhealthy diet while breastfeeding or pregnant may be putting the health of their children at long-term risk. The study was carried out in rats at the Royal Veterinary College of London and builds upon research previously carried out by the same team. In the previous study, the team fed pregnant rats a diet rich in fat, sugar and salt, what they saw was that their offspring overate and had an overwhelming preference for junk food. Taking this research a step further, the team is revealing that a mother's diet can have effects lasting well into adulthood. What they witnessed was that even if junk food was removed from the diets of young rats, their metabolism remained altered. It was this altered metabolism that made them overweight and unhealthy. And when the young rats were offered a choice between healthy food and junk food, they chose junk food and tended to overeat. These results are similar to observations made which show that children¿s weight often reflects that of their parents. As a result of their research in rats, scientists are able to claim that the mother¿s diet may be responsible for putting children at risk of developing long term, irreversible health issues including obesity, raised levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. These impacts are often more pronounced in female offspring. The team fed one group of rats a diet of processed junk food such as doughnuts, muffins, biscuits, crisps and sweets during pregnancy and lactation. Another group was fed a healthy diet of regular feed, and the results of both groups were then compared. The results were astounding. The young rats demonstrated raised levels of cholesterol as well as higher levels of triglycerides. These triglycerides are a type of fat found in the bloodstream. In humans, high levels of triglycerides are linked to atherosclerosis, heart disease and strokes. The levels of glucose and insulin were also higher than normal. Humans with high levels of both are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The results back up similar research carried out in the US which showed a high correlation between obesity in children and the amount of weight pregnant women put on. The researchers were however surprised that there was a gender difference in the young rats. Male offspring of mothers fed a diet of junk food had higher levels of insulin and normal levels of glucose. The same could not be said for the female offspring which depicted exactly the opposite results. What this suggested to researchers was that the metabolism is different for the two sexes. What this means for future mothers is that they need to be more aware of what they eat, because their indulgence may be adversely impacting the lives of their children.

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