Mother’s High-Fat, Sugary Diet Could Raise Child’s Risk of Substance Abuse: Rat Study

Mothers who consume a high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy may be more likely to have children with an increased vulnerability to drug or alcohol abuse, a study of rats suggests.

Researchers at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute studied offspring of rats that ate high-fat or high-sugar diets while pregnant, and compared them with offspring of rats that ate diets with less fat and sugar. They found rat babies whose mothers ate high-fat or high-sugar diets during pregnancy weighed more as adults and drank more alcohol. Those whose mothers were on high-sugar diets during pregnancy also had stronger responses to commonly abused drugs such as amphetamine.

The findings were presented at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, the Business Standard reports.

“Our findings suggest that even while [rats are] still in the womb, exposure to high-fat and sugar-rich diets can, in addition to increasing body weight, lead to a predisposition to drink alcohol and a sensitivity to drugs,” lead researcher Nicole Avena, PhD, a research neuroscientist with the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute, said in a news release.

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