Eating disorder: balanced diet protects against food cravings

New research findings: Prenatal stress favors cravings
Researchers have found that cravings associated with stress during pregnancy are already programmed in the fetus' brain. They also found that the onset of this eating disorder in adolescents can be prevented by eating a balanced diet.

Living conditions of expectant mothers
It has long been known that the living conditions of expectant mothers during pregnancy have a negative impact on the later life of the offspring and can make men and women susceptible to various diseases. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich wanted to find out whether this phenomenon also plays a role in eating disorders.

Eating habits of pregnant women
When women become pregnant, their eating habits change radically. This also has an impact on young people.

In a recently published study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich have shown that cravings caused by stress during pregnancy are already programmed in the brain of the fetus.

The gender of the child is decisive. Programming does not necessarily lead to the occurrence of the eating disorder, it only occurs under certain triggers.

The scientists also found that the onset of the disorder in adolescents can be prevented by eating a balanced diet.

Up to three percent of Germans suffer from food cravings
According to the experts, food cravings are a common eating disorder, affecting up to three percent of the population, mostly women. Those affected often consume large amounts of food within a very short time.

Eating behavior is compulsive, and patients often state that they are not under control. Many sufferers are overweight and therefore have an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Often, patients with food cravings also suffer from depression and low self-esteem and are more prone to anxiety disorders.

Female offspring of mice were more likely to develop feeding attacks
The Munich scientists investigated whether the living conditions of the mother during pregnancy can also affect eating disorders.

In the mouse model, they were able to biologically simulate the activation of the central stress response during an advanced pregnancy.

They then tested whether the offspring were prone to food cravings during puberty.

They found that female offspring from mice who were stressed during pregnancy were more likely to develop feeding attacks than female offspring of non-stressed mice.

Prevention of cravings
"Now we wanted to know exactly how stress causes food cravings," said lead author Mariana Schroeder, postdoc in the research group of the director of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Alon Chen, in a message.

“We found that many molecules in the offspring's hypothalamus were epigenetically modified. However, this programming during pregnancy does not always lead to disturbed eating behavior, ”said the expert.

"Only when certain triggers occur during puberty do the changes already given through prenatal programming become noticeable."

Alon Chen was very pleased with the results of his research group: "The most remarkable thing about the study is that we were able to completely prevent the onset of cravings by giving the adolescent mice a balanced diet."

He added: “This study is evidence that cravings are based on prenatal programming. It also gives us a crucial insight into a previously neglected research area. ”

Balanced diet for pregnant women
Experts repeatedly point out how important balanced nutrition is for expectant mothers. Pregnant women should eat regularly and throughout the day. As a rough guide, take three main meals a day.

If the hunger comes in between, two snacks can be added as needed.

"The food selection and thus the composition of the nutrients should be carried out particularly carefully during pregnancy," writes the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) on its website, where further recommendations can be found. (ad)

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