Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moms, Junk Food, Rats and Fat Kids

This post might be more interesting if you’re a rat, but . . .

There seems to be a correlation. A new study by London’s Royal Veterinary College, published in the Journal of Physiology found that the offspring of rats fed junk food while pregnant had increased blood sugar, blood fat, and decreased insulin sensitivity by the end of adolescence. And, once weaned, the offspring of the junk-food-fed rat mothers preferred junk foods more than the offspring of rats fed healthy food. And more—the obesity-linked genes were more active in the offspring of junk-food-fed mothers.

The rats whose mothers were fed junk food during pregnancy grew fatter over time than normal rats. “Their fat cells were larger, which might make them more prone to obesity and might make it harder for them to lose weight,” says Stephanie Bayol, PhD, London Royal Veterinary College.

But—where we human beings are concerned, before you completely blame Mom, consider that junk food has tastes and textures that appeal to children, and it’s heavily advertised during children’s programming. In fact:

  • Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 television ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food, more than 7,600 a year. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • Nine in 10 food ads on Saturday morning are aimed at kids and promote high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar, or low-nutrient foods. (May 2005 data, Ameena Batada, Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Whether or not the “Rat Study” crosses over to us humans, it’s important to know that we can all take control, and all play a part in our own long-term health and wellness decisions—and in those of our children. Here’s an idea: Instead of offering the fast-food “chicken-nugget” dinner to your children, “because you know they will eat it,” offer a healthy alternative such as baked chicken and vegetables. Healthy for you, healthy for them.

It all gets back to personal responsibility, yours’ and what you do for your children.

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