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.
“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.