Eating for two? Food addiction and pregnancy

pregnant-womanMany of us will have happily encouraged a pregnant woman to eat larger portions with the words “why not, you’re eating for two.” But few of us will have considered that the choice of food made by the woman has the potential to cause addiction problems for their child for the rest of their lives. It is perhaps common sense to try and eat nutritious foods while avoiding fast foods as often as possible, but research has shown that in fact a mother’s choice of foods can have a lasting effect on the child’s lifelong food preferences and risk of metabolic disease.

According to the study, this increased junk food tolerance is actually a chemical imbalance developed in the unborn child which causes them to become less sensitive to dopamine – in food terms this means that in order to feel the same satisfaction as the rest of us after eating junk food, the child will need to consume larger and larger amounts, in the same way that alcohol or drug addicts will need to increase their intake to experience the desired highs. The implications for the child’s health are clear.

That being said, there is no harm in the occasional indulgence, and giving in to cravings can be all part of the fun. Ultimately, it is the same as most addictions – in moderation there is likely to be little harm, but if abused in the long term it can have devastating effects for all involved. If the child is allowed to develop unhealthy eating habits as a result of their decreased sensitivity to salt and sugar, it is likely that they will pass these habits onto their own children and so it spirals.

The study shows that food addiction needs to be treated just as seriously as any other addiction. At the end of the day, it is a substance that can be abused and cause chemical imbalances in the brain. It can have as massive an impact as heroin addiction and thus when a problem exists, it is important that professional support is sought rather than the person believing it not to be serious enough to warrant help.

If you or your loved one feel you are affected by food addiction, whether you are eating for two or not, give us a call.


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