Mother’s Diet Influences Alcohol Preference in Kids
By now, we are all fully aware of the obesity epidemic and widespread lifestyle diseases that have a death grip on our nation. We are literally getting fatter and sicker with every bite. However, we are only beginning to recognize that the consequences of poor dietary decisions can have a tremendous impact on other facets of our existence. More specifically and of particular importance to our mission here at TwelveWellness, it has been found that a mother’s diet has a tremendous influence on alcohol preference in the lives of children.
Building on studies that illustrate the negative metabolic consequences of shortsighted maternal nutrition (obesity), a new study published by the American Psychological Association goes to great lengths to illustrate that a highly-palatable diet in utero can “sensitize reward-related brain systems” and alter gene expression to promote alcohol intake in offspring.
What are the parameters of a highly palatable diet? That’s simple.
Prenatal and pre-weaning high-fat and -sugar diets alter reward-related gene expression in children, essentially predisposing them to food, drug and alcohol seeking behavior later in life.
More specifically, a prenatal diet consisting of approximately 50% fat and 25% of both carbohydrates and protein generates a statistically significant preference for alcohol in children when compared to a diet that consists of 50% carbohydrates and 25% of both fat and protein. Also, the mindless consumption of sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup during fetal development can produce offspring with more addiction-like behaviors.
Applying this information in real life is inherently complicated, but suffice it to say that eating more highly palatable, fat- and sugar-heavy foods hits children with both a predisposition for obesity and heightened response to drugs of abuse. Unfortunately, the epigenetic cards are stacked against us as the majority of women of child-bearing age are already overweight, mostly due to over eating, with an established preference for highly-palatable foods.
According to Nicole Avena, PhD and research neuroscientist with the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute, “our findings suggest that even while still in the womb, exposure to high-fat and sugar-rich diets can…lead to a predisposition to drink alcohol and a sensitivity to drugs.”
Image courtesy of DrugFreeHomes.org