The Impact of Fast Food Diet Before Pregnancy On Breast Milk Production


Expecting mothers often change their diet throughout pregnancy to ensure that their babies get the nutrients they need inside the womb and after birth if the mother chooses to breastfeed. They tend to abandon their bad eating habits and opt for a more nutritional and healthy diet.

However, a recent study by researchers from St John’s College, the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom suggested that consumption of fast food diet even before pregnancy could affect a woman’s health and lessen their ability to produce nutritional breast milk after giving birth. This can then affect the newborn’s well-being and increase the risk of both mother and child developing potentially fatal conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in later life. 

To confirm their claims, the researchers investigated the effect of a high-fat, high sugar (HFHS) diet within 3-weeks before pregnancy and known maternal adiposity on fertility, gestational, and neonatal outcomes using lab mice and found several important findings that we will discuss in this article.

The Link Between HFHS Diet and Reduced Breast Milk Production

According to a source, a “Western-style” diet high in fat and sugar contributes to a great number of raised body mass index (BMI) and obesity in developed countries. As a result, 52.7 percent of women are overweight at the point of conception, leading to problems in achieving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. 

Several risks from an increased BMI may include:

  • higher risk of miscarriage
  • compromised fetal development and well-being
  • a heightened risk of the infant developing health problems during childhood
  • risks of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in adult life

Several problems of pregnancy in women, such as gestational hyperglycemia, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, are also concerns related to elevated BMI.

In mice, obesity has previously been induced, but the majority of research focuses on the consequences of long-term, chronic high-fat, high-sugar diets. In this new research, mice were fed a processed high-fat pellet diet with sweetened condensed milk for three weeks before conception, throughout the whole three-week pregnancy, and three weeks after conception. This diet resembled the calorie count of a fast food burger, fries, and soda. The goal was to ascertain the effects on fetus growth, fertility, and neonatal outcomes.

According to the study’s findings, even a short-term high fat, high sugar diet affected the mouse pups’ survival immediately following birth, with a higher loss rate when the mother was feeding her young.

The quality of milk proteins was shown to be poor in mice mothers eating high fat, high sugar diet, even though milk proteins are crucial for the development of newborns.

Additionally, a woman’s health, the health of her unborn child, and her capacity to care for the infant later may all be affected by brief exposure to a diet from just before pregnancy, even if there are no outward signs of change in the woman’s body size or weight.

Other findings of the study state:

  • There were no significant changes in fertility for mice who underwent the 3-week HFHS diet.
  • Those who underwent a 3-week HFHS diet are found to have higher levels of fat mass which is a predictor of many health problems.

High amounts of fats may not prevent a mother from getting pregnant, but they may impact the baby’s development before delivery and health and well-being after birth.

The study’s findings shed more light on the need for pregnant women to ensure they are in good nutritional condition before getting pregnant. Further recommendations from the researchers included the necessity of educating women about the value of eating a healthy, balanced diet before conception and throughout pregnancy, and after delivery. More individualized prenatal care should be provided to moms, even if they appear to be in good health.

Journal Reference

Lean, S. C., Candia, A. A., Gulacsi, E., Lee, G. C., & Sferruzzi‐Perri, A. N. (2022). Obesogenic diet in mice compromises maternal metabolic physiology and lactation ability leading to reductions in neonatal viability. Acta Physiologica. 

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