February 14, 2014

junk food!

If you find this photo tantalizing, your mother might have eaten a lot of junk food while she was pregnant with you, says Kristin Wartman. Credit: weequizzie / Flickr Creative Commons

Guest:

We've talked before on Innovation Hub about the science behind that old adage "you are what you eat" (check out our conversation with Michael Pollan and Moises Velasquez-Manoff), but food journalist Kristin Wartman takes that to a whole other level. It's not only what you eat that impacts your life, she says - it's what your mother ate during her pregnancy.

Wartman points to studies suggesting that babies born to mothers who ate processed foods (high in sugar and salt) had a preference for those foods later in life. What's more: mothers who ate lots of junk food had offspring with a desensitized reward pathway in the brain, meaning they had to eat more of those junk foods to get the same feel-good response. In short, Wartman says: "Bad eating habits start in the womb."

The period right after birth is also pivotal in determining a person's diet and taste preferences, and it comes down to the age-old debate: formula, or no formula? Formula babies don't get exposure to a wide variety of foods, and when weaned off formula they don't have a very diverse palette (which is also true of women who breast feed but don't eat a wide variety of foods.)

When it comes down to it, it's all about exposure. Though humans are hardwired to like sweet, sugary foods, "they do need to learn to like things like broccoli or other kinds of pungent foods," Wartman says. "If they're not exposed to that early on, they're less likely to want to eat those foods in toddlerhood." 

Still curious?

children, Body and Mind, nutrition, prenatal health, motherhood, babies, pregnancy, health

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