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Two critical windows to shun junk food craving

Posted:  Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Junk food has been blamed as the root cause of all lifestyle conditions. So how does one turn away from them when they are everywhere? There is a window of opportunity to tackle this challenge. Simply avoid consumption of junk foods during 2 developmental time points, namely late pregnancy and adolescence. A new research yielded these findings and also found that exposure to junk food during these times could be harmful especially for the female offspring.

Conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide, the studies were based on earlier research and on their laboratory workup. The results indicate that junk food consumption during pregnancy could program the growing infant to be addicted to fat and sugar. This association was particularly true for junk food consumption during the latter half of pregnancy as compared to consumption during the first half of pregnancy. So, this is the first window of opportunity to establish healthy eating habits in the offspring.

The second window of opportunity opens up during adolescence wherein females were more susceptible to junk food addiction compared with their male counterparts. The researchers found that eating a healthy diet during adolescence could reverse the junk food addiction in males but not in females. This could be due to a desensitisation of the normal reward system involving the opioid and dopamine signalling pathway and the high palatability of sugar- and fat-rich foods.

They also found that offspring with less sensitive reward systems in the brain would require higher amounts of fat and sugar for the ‘feel good’ factor. According to the researchers, rapid brain growth during adolescence makes it susceptible to changes induced by diet. Hence, adolescence could be one of the determining time points.

The researchers believe that these insightful findings could help pregnant mothers monitor their diet and consequently modulate their child’s lifelong food preferences. In addition, exercising caution on dietary habits during adolescence could pay rich dividends later in life.

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