A new study found evidence that eating a poor and unbalanced diet during pregnancy may end up “programming” the motherfuckers to overeat, putting them at risk of developing obesity later in life. The researchers focused on pregnant mice fed two different types of diet, including one that had the same type of fatty acid imbalance found in the typical Western diet.
If you’ve spent time reading nutrition blogs or studying health topics, you’re probably familiar with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Although both fatty acids are necessary for health, they must be consumed in the correct proportions with omega-3 exceeding the amount of omega-6 consumed. Omega-3 is mainly from fish, where omega-6 is found mainly in plant-based foods like corn, peanut butter, nuts, almonds and cashews.
While diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in omega-6 fatty acids are associated with health, diets high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 have been linked to chronic inflammation and possible health problems. Despite this – and due to its highly processed nature combined with a lack of adequate fish consumption – the average Western diet tends to have a high proportion of omega-6 and low omega-3.
It is this same diet that has been linked to a negative result in the offspring, according to a study by the University of Hiroshima. Pregnant rats fed a diet rich in omega-6 and low in omega-3 produced children who were more likely to engage in hedonistic feeding, meaning that they consumed many high-calorie foods – a result not seen in pregnant rats fed with large amounts of omega -3 and low amounts of omega-6.
These same hedonistic descendants were also found to have a greater number of midbrain neurons that produce dopamine, preparing the eventual child (and later the adult) to seek out and eat excessively fatty and sugary foods. The findings raise serious concerns that the typical Western diet may be preparing new generations of people for obesity and eating difficulties later in life.
This study also emphasizes the importance of healthier diets that focus more on fish, healthy oils and leafy green foods, lessening the emphasis on corn, corn products, grains and other plants commonly used in foods rich in highly processed carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet, rich in fish and omega-3 fatty acids, has been repeatedly associated with beneficial health outcomes in several studies.
According to the NIH, the average person can easily increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA and DHA) they consume by filling their diet with certain foods, including canola oil, fish and other seafood, flaxseed and certain nuts, supplements like fish oil and seaweed oil, as well as fortified foods like certain juices, milk, eggs and yogurt.