We’ve discussed evidence in humans and animals that when moms and/or dads eat a high-calorie, high-fat diet, their offspring are more likely to be obese and/or prediabetic.
When pregnant monkeys consume a high-fat diet modeled after the typical American meal plan, their offspring are more anxious and stressed compared with the offspring of moms that ate more healthfully during pregnancy, according to the research.
Regardless of whether the high-fat-diet moms became obese or stayed lean, their babies were more anxious, Grove said, suggesting that it’s diet, not obesity, that influences their offspring’s behavior. The problem seems to lie with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being, the researchers found. The brains of fetuses and babies of high-fat diet moms showed disruptions in serotonin signaling.
What may be happening, Grove said, is that a high-fat diet inflammes the placenta, which in turn exposes the developing fetus to inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are known to disrupt the development of the serotonin system.
The serotonin system is targeted by antidepressant drugs like Paxil and Prozac.
The researchers note that:
Childhood obesity is not only associated with increased risk of metabolic diseases, but also with a range of behavioral/psychological disorders, including depression (Rofey et al., 2009), anxiety (Rofey et al., 2009), poor learning (Cserjesi et al., 2007), and attention deficient disorder (Waring and Lapane, 2008).
Overall, the majority of HFD [high fat diet] offspring (78%) displayed some sort of aberrant behavior (anxious and/or aggressive) during the test, whereas only 11% of CTR [control diet] offspring displayed such behavior.
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