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Fast food during pregnancy harms both mother and offspring and interferes with milk production.

Fast foods – burgers, fries, pizzas, sugar-sweetened drinks, and many others – are often high in calories, saturated fat, added sugars, and salt. Regular consumption of fast foods is associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases. Findings from a recent study suggest that eating fast food during pregnancy negatively influences maternal health during pregnancy and undermines the nutritional quality of a mother’s breast milk.

Breast milk is a complex and highly dynamic fluid that changes in composition in response to the growing infant’s needs. It contains both nutritional and non-nutritional components and is profoundly influenced by maternal health and dietary intake.

The investigators fed one group of mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet that mimicked the nutritional content of fast food before, during, and after pregnancy. They fed another group a normal diet. They assessed the mothers' metabolic health, milk output, and milk composition, and assessed the offspring’s health.

They found that the mice that ate the high-fat, high-sugar diet were heavier and had higher blood glucose and insulin levels during pregnancy than the mice that ate the normal diet. They also had fatty livers and showed signs of changes in their pancreatic tissues. More of the offspring born to the mice that ate the high-fat, high-sugar diet died during the lactation period due to poor maternal mammary gland development and diminished milk protein production.

These findings suggest that eating foods that are high in fat and sugar (such as fast foods) during pregnancy negatively influences maternal health and undermines the nutritional quality of a mother’s breast milk. Learn more about breast milk and breastfeeding in our overview article.

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