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Kids Predisposed to Alcohol, Drugs, and a Taste for Sugar

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Kids Predisposed to Alcohol, Drugs, and a Taste for Sugar

pregnant mom eating.jpgWhen you’re pregnant, you learn that everything crosses the placenta — thus the warning about not drinking and no caffeine (if I remember correctly). Some women consult with a geneticist even before getting pregnant, or perhaps if something turns up in amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, another prenatal test.

It’s one thing to hear about these things and think you know about genetics and about healthy eating for your baby. But experts have again confirmed the importance of healthy eating for pregnant women. We have known some of this, it’s true, but now even more disturbing information has surfaced. Mothers who eat poorly can predispose their unborn or nursing children to obesity, heart problems, and addiction, according to news from the American Psychological Association this month.

“Vulnerability to alcohol and drug abuse may begin in the womb and be linked to how much fatty and sugary foods a mother eats during pregnancy, according to findings from animal lab experiments presented at APA’s 121st Annual Convention.” The press release has this headline: MOMS’ HIGH-FAT, SUGARY DIETS MAY LEAD TO HEAVY OFFSPRING WITH A TASTE FOR ALCOHOL, SENSITIVITY TO DRUGS, UF RESEARCHER FINDS.

In a study using rats, scientists at Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute found major differences in comparing offspring of rats that ate rodent chow with those that ate a diet high in fat and high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose. The results? “The offspring of rats that had high-fat diets while pregnant drank significantly more alcohol in adulthood than the offspring of rats with the regular chow diet.”

Also, the ones whose mothers were on the high-fat diet “had significantly higher levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the bloodstream that can increase the risk of heart disease. Further, pups exposed to either of the sugar-rich diets before birth or during nursing became hyperactive when given low doses of amphetamine, suggesting sensitivity to the drug. These animals also weighed significantly more at the end of the study than those born to the rats that ate regular chow.”

(Note how closely this news aligns with MBRC’s practice of using natural sweeteners.)

Liz Winchell, an MBRC counselor, found this news “very interesting” but said that “there must be a factor for using food to self-medicate because when I was pregnant with my daughter Marissa I ate very carefully and had none of the listed foods and she had a serious weight problem.”

Mark Gold, M.D., chairman of the Psychiatry department at the University of Florida and a mentor of Joan’s, responded as follows, “Like most things, it is always complicated. Genes are one factor, trauma and life experiences another…but this [news] is important because it says that the genes you should have been born with can be modified by exposure in utero or early in life.” He and his colleagues at The University of Florida are involved in promising work with medications normally used in the treatment of substance abuse to also treat overeating.


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