Recent research by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), London, indicates that mothers who eat junk food during pregnancy may raise the chance of having obese offspring that are at risk of developing diabetes.

The study shows the offspring of mothers fed on unhealthy food with poor nutritional value during gestation and lactation display poorly developed muscles in comparison with those fed on a more balanced diet.

The study published in The Journal of Physiology carried out by Professor Neil Stickland and Dr Stephanie Bayol showed that rats fed doughnuts, muffins, chocolate, crisps, cheese, biscuits and sweets during pregnancy and lactation gave birth to offspring with increased fatness and muscle waste. The offspring also showed signs of insulin resistance, a condition that precedes the early onset of type-2 diabetes, as early as 3 weeks of age.

Professor Neil Stickland, from the Royal Veterinary College, said: ?In Western society, the proportion of obese children is increasing. Childhood obesity is associated with a range of disorders, including heart disease, arthritis and the increasingly earlier onset of type-2 diabetes, which have important consequences on an individual's quality of life.

?Our research suggests that healthy eating habits should start during the foetal life of an individual, before they even reach school age. The clamour to give children better school dinners is all very well, but future mothers need to be aware that pregnancy is not the time to over-indulge on sugary-fatty treats. Eating large quantities of junk food when pregnant and breastfeeding could be causing irreversible damage to their unborn children and could send their offspring on the road to obesity and early onset of diabetes.?

Professor Stickland and Dr Stephanie Bayol are currently investigating the longer term effects of a maternal junk food diet on the offspring's development and health. They are also investigating the possible effects of such diets on promoting hyperactive behaviour in offspring.


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