Overconsumption of junk food late in pregnancy may be more harmful to the child than excess junk food early in the pregnancy, researchers from the University of Adelaide have shown. Findings from the study are published in The FASEB Journal.

Scientists have demonstrated that late pregnancy and adolescence stages are two critical windows when the negative effects of junk food addiction can be reduced. Because the opioid and dopamine signaling pathway (“reward system”) grows the fastest during these two windows, it is most vulnerable to modifications. Researchers believe if the mother consumes excess junk food early in her pregnancy, there may be a chance to lessen the negative impacts by eating a healthy diet in late pregnancy. The study team also found that during adolescence, males were able to reverse their junk food preference by eating a healthy diet but females were not.

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The researchers hope that findings from the study will educate pregnant women about long-term effects of their diet on their child’s lifelong food preference, and that it will help them make better decisions about their diet choices. Also, clinicians will be able to focus on timely dietary interventions that will be provide the most benefit.

For more information visit adelaide.edu.au.