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Exposure to High-Fat and Sugar Diet in the Womb Linked with Higher Risk of Drug Abuse

Aug 05, 2013 09:10 AM EDT
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(Photo : REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Exposure to high-fat and sugar diet in the womb could raise the risk of substance abuse later in life, a new study has found.

Researchers found that mother's high-fat and sugar diet are linked with the offspring being more vulnerable to weight gain, drinking large quantities of alcohol and abuse common drugs,

"The majority of women in the U.S. at child-bearing age are overweight, and this is most likely due to overeating the tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods you find everywhere in our society. The rise in prenatal and childhood obesity and the rise in number of youths abusing alcohol and drugs merits looking into all the possible roots of these growing problems," said Nicole Avena, PhD, a research neuroscientist with the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute.

The study was conducted on rats. Researchers found that offspring of high-fat and sugar-based diet had higher body mass and were more likely to take common drugs such as amphetamine than offspring of rats kept on a regular diet. These rats were also more likely to drink more alcohol than others.

Researchers also swapped the birth-giving mother with nursing mother to check if the rats were picking up the behavior while growing up. They found that rats who belonged to mothers that were on high fat and sugar diet (birth or nursing) were at a higher risk of being overweight and being sensitive to common drugs.

Previous research has shown that high fat and sugar diets alter the brain's reward-system, which makes lab animals (and even people) eat more and abuse drugs.

The study was presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention.

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