The High-Fat Legacy

Your prenatal diet may influence your baby's cravings later on.


If you want your baby to develop healthy eating patterns, don’t load up on cheeseburgers and milkshakes while you’re pregnant. Research on rats found that a high-fat prenatal diet produces permanent changes in the offspring’s brain that ultimately lead to overeating and obesity. Study author Sarah F. Leibowitz, Ph.D., says that triglycerides, unhealthy fats that are elevated in the blood after high-fat meals, stimulate brain chemicals that cause us to eat more. In her study, she fed pregnant rats a high-fat diet, then replaced it with a normal diet just before they gave birth. Even so, the pups born to those mothers had higher blood levels of triglycerides and weighed more throughout life.

“I believe similar things may occur in humans, since clinical studies already show that early exposure to a fat-rich diet promotes obesity in [human babies] after weaning,” says Leibowitz. “Our study is the first to provide clear, strong and definitive evidence for what is affected in the brain by a high-fat diet during pregnancy.”