Stress taken during pregnancy may prove harmful for female children as it may cause binge-eating disorder in them at adulthood, according to a study conducted on mice.
While mothers who were stressed passed along binge eating-related epigenetic tags on their DNA, the tendency to binge in mouse pups was found only when they too took stress, according to the researchers.
“The price we pay later in life – whether it’s psychiatric disorders, metabolic syndromes, or heart-related illnesses -– is heavily impacted by the way your brain was programmed early in life,” said Alon Chen, a neurobiologist at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
“We have established a model where we can actually show that early life stress increases the likelihood of binge eating in females,” Chen said.
For the study, a line of mice was genetically engineered. The hormone system of the mice that controls cortisol- stress hormones- release to increase the anxiety levels of pregnant mothers during their third trimester.
The mouse pups only showed binge eating behavior when they were placed in a stressful situation where their access to food was restricted by the researchers. Also when the eating habits of stressed mice were measured, it was found that those who were born to the stressed mothers were more likely to eat large amounts of food during short windows of time.
However, researchers were able to prevent the binge eating in young mice by putting them on a diet with ‘balanced’ levels of nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and folate.
This study tells the importance of avoiding stressful situations as much as possible during pregnancy, the researchers added.