Self-Control Is Harder for Pregnant Women With Food Cravings

Jenny Benjamin

chocolate cakeI've made no secret of the fact that in the last trimester, my appetite has suddenly grown to epic proportions. And even if, for whatever reason, I'm able to ignore what seem to be constant hunger pangs, one or both of my babies will furiously squirm around, as if they're flagging down their server, "Hey lady, can we get some snacks up in this joint?"

Of course, I'm still trying to make healthy choices ... for the most part. But I just can't seem to curb my cravings for cake -- rich, layered decadence with lots of frosting. Thus far, I've been justifying it by saying, "Well, duh, I'm just responding to what my boys need, and what my boys need is a big, honking slice of chocolate cake with mocha filling and buttercream frosting, clearly."

Well, a recent study found that eating a high-fat diet during pregnancy can directly contribute to pre-diabetes in your baby. With that sobering news, I think it's time for me to exert some self-control and back away from the buttercream.

The study leaves very little open to interpretation -- they discovered that a "typical Western diet" during pregnancy, which is about 45 percent fat (yes, you read that right!), leads directly and specifically to glucose issues in your baby. Here's what the study researchers had to say:

We found that exposure to a high-fat diet before birth modifies gene expression in the livers of offspring so they are more likely to overproduce glucose, which can cause early insulin resistance and diabetes ... At birth, offspring in the high-fat group had blood sugar levels that were twice as high as those in the control group, even though their mothers had normal levels.

Put simply: if you eat a high-fat diet during pregnancy -- getting half of your calories from fatty meats and full-fat dairy, fast food, and rich pastries -- your baby is at risk ... period! And it doesn't matter if you're healthy, if you're heavy or thin, whether you're showing signs of diabetes or not.  

Plus, once your baby is affected, it doesn't look like you can just unring that bell. Researchers are hoping that doctors can at least diagnose newborns, so that these children can start practicing healthy diet and lifestyle habits early on, which will delay or even prevent the development of diabetes. Yep, your baby, on a diet! I don't know about you, but the idea that what I eat could not only trigger unhealthy habits in my children (like a yen for fast food), but also directly create a medical condition in my babies definitely gave me pause.

Obviously, you're not going to completely lay off the fatty stuff -- I'm not going to, either -- but it might be better to ration your double cheeseburger habit to just once, maybe twice, a week. Overall, you (and your baby) are going to be better off if you satisfy those hunger pangs and cravings with healthier fare like lean protein and dairy, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. If you need a fat fix, stick to healthy fats that contain omega 3s and 6s, found in foods like cold-water, low-mercury fish (salmon, for example), flax seeds, soy, eggs, poultry, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. And when my babies try to get in my head with visions of seven-layer chocolate cake, I'm going to start practicing good parenting habits and learn how to say no sometimes!

In light of this study, will you cut down on your fat consumption during pregnancy? Do you find it harder because of your pregnancy urges?

Image via dichohecho/Flickr

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