High-Fat Pregnancy Cravings May Have Serious Consequences

Recent research demonstrates how prenatal diets can affect the brain

It’s well known that what a pregnant woman eats and drinks can affect the health of her child — but a recent study suggests that prenatal diets may affect the child’s eating habits as well.  The research was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and recently presented at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting.

Led by Juliana Gastao Franco, the study fed different groups of female monkeys a low-fat diet (14 percent of calories from fat) and a high-fat diet (36 percent of calories from fat). Then, the researchers analyzed these monkeys’ offspring — focusing on the hypothalamus region of the brain, which controls food intake — in order to determine the effects of the prenatal diet.

According to Franco, “Our group demonstrated that consumption of high-fat diet during gestation alters fetal development of neurons that control food intake, ultimately leading to an increased preference for high-calorie food and to increased body fat in the offspring.” Male offspring of the females fed a high-fat diet also exhibited higher body weight overall.


While the study needs more follow-up research to fully determine how the pattern relates to humans, it does put pregnancy cravings in a new perspective.