With Mother's Day coming up, I find it ironic that I'm working on my latest class in our Food Addiction Series, titled – "Food Addiction: Can I Blame My Mom For This?" Obviously this is a tongue-in-cheek title for this class, which focuses on the various causes of addictive patterns with food, one of which are changes that happen to the fetus as a result of maternal eating patterns.
Now before you run to your mother stating, "See I told you this was your fault," keep reading. It is quite possible that under- or overeating during pregnancy can cause changes to the baby that may increase the likelihood that the child will be more prone to insulin and leptin resistance. This resistance can cause poorly managed blood sugar levels and appetite dysregulation, making a person feel hungrier than they should. Also, a high fat maternal diet may cause a baby to be born with higher levels of galanin and orexin, compared to infants exposed to a lower-fat maternal eating pattern. Both orexins and galanin stimulate feeding and galanin encourages an increased preference for dietary fats.
Do these changes necessarily cause food addiction? No. They will play a role in appetite and blood sugar regulation, but aren't a guarantee that the person will have a life-long adversarial relationship with food. In fact, we may actually be able to thank our mothers for certain eating patterns they passed on to us. Many women exhibit their healthiest eating patterns ever during pregnancy. I cannot think of a greater motivator to eat healthy than knowing you are laying the groundwork for your child's future health.
Many mothers will express how their child tends to craving/prefer foods that mom was eating while she was pregnant. Personally this concept used to seem so far fetched to me and smacked of an old-wives' tale, but now I know there is some credence to this. Research does show that infants are more receptive to certain flavors/foods if their mother was consuming them frequently during pregnancy. This photo in the post is actually of my buddy Bryce, who no doubt inherited his love of sushi from his mom; his chopstick skills are impeccable.
Also, for infants who are breastfed, mom's eating patterns can affect flavors in breast milk causing children to have specific food preferences. If your mom was good about eating a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables, while breastfeeding you may have a better vegetable intake, finding these more palatable, than a formula-fed child might. Breastfeeding also allows the infant to determine when they are done eating, versus bottle feeding where parents often keep offering the bottle until it's gone. This may be beneficial later in childhood, helping the child to focus in internal regulators of appetite versus external cues to eat.
Finally, you can thank both Mom and Dad for not giving up on encouraging you to try new foods. Children need repeat exposure to new foods before they will accept them. It could be so easy for a parent to say, "Well, we tried carrots twice and the baby hates them, that's it for carrots." Children need repeat exposure, sometimes trying something up to 10 times before they'll accept this new taste/texture. If your parents were persistent, they may have helped you develop a taste for many healthy foods. Thank them today, especially mom who played a major role in laying the groundwork for some of your eating patterns.
Did any of you moms out there find that your child really did develop preferences based on what you ate during your pregnancy? If so, what foods did your child gravitate towards as a result?