Tag Archives: Foodplus

Maternal diet sets up junk food addiction in babies

Story is based on one orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that mothers who eat junk food while pregnant have already programmed their babies to be addicted to a high fat, high sugar diet by the time they are weaned.

In laboratory studies in rats, the researchers found that a junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation desensitised the normal reward system fuelled by these highly palatable foods.

Led by Dr Bev Mühlhäusler, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University’s FOODplus Research Centre, this is the first study to show the effects of maternal junk food consumption at such an early stage in the offspring’s life. The study was published recently in The FASEB Journal.

Opioids are produced by the body as a reward response, including in response to fat and sugar. These opioids stimulate the production of the “feel good” hormone dopamine, which produces a good feeling.

“We found that the opioid signalling pathway (the reward pathway) in these offspring was less sensitive than those whose mothers were eating a standard diet,” Dr Mühlhäusler says.

This means that children being born to a mother who ate a diet dominated by junk food would need to eat more fat and sugar to get the same good feeling, increasing their preference for junk food. It would also encourage them to overeat.

“In the same way that someone addicted to opioid drugs has to consume more of the drug over time to achieve the same ‘high’, continually producing excess opioids by eating too much junk food results in the need to consume more foods full of fat and sugar to get the same pleasurable sensation,” says Dr Mühlhäusler.

“Mothers eating a lot of junk food while pregnant are setting up their children to be addicted.

“Although our research shows that many of the long-term health problems associated with maternal junk food diets can be avoided if offspring carefully follow a healthy diet after weaning, they are always going to have a predisposition for overconsumption of junk food and obesity. It’s going to make it much more difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight.”

Dr Mühlhäusler says it is important to try and understand the effects of the maternal diet at a very early stage in the offspring to see what systems could be targeted, if any, to reverse the problem.

Initial findings from further work, however, have suggested the alterations to the opioid receptors are permanent.

“The take-home message for women is that eating large amounts of junk food during pregnancy and while breastfeeding will have long-term consequences for their child’s preference for these foods, which will ultimately have negative effects on their health,” Dr Mühlhäusler says.

New SA investment in Waite-based research to improve Australian diets

Professor Bob Gibson and his FOODplus team, in collaboration with the University of Manitoba in Canada, have been awarded $300,000 over three years to investigate more efficient and environmentally sustainable ways to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the eggs and meat of chickens for better human nutrition.

The grant has been awarded through the State Government’s Premiers International Research Grant Program to improve collaborations between international partners and leading researchers in South Australia and was announced yesterday by the Minister for Science and Information Economy, Grace Portolesi.

As Professor Gibson explains “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development and healthy living, but most Australians do not meet the recommended daily intakes from seafood or fish oil and increasing the amount from marine sources is not sustainable. The average Australian now eats more chicken than any other meat, so increasing the omega-3 fatty acid content of chicken meat and eggs provides a way for people to increase the intake of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids sustainably without requiring consumers to change their current purchasing or dietary practices”.

A previous project, funded by the Constellation SA scheme and aligned with the Manitoba Funding Initiative, showed that it’s possible to increase the omega-3 content of chicken meat and eggs, without affecting the sensory properties of these products, by modulating the chickens’ dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from sustainable plant sources. Importantly, this work also showed that birds fed a diet with an increased ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats (through addition of flaxseed oil, rich in ALA) had better growth rates and improved feed conversion ratio (FCR) compared to the birds fed a control commercial diet.

The new initiative project will examine the best ways to reduce the cost of providing the flaxseed diet, while still sustaining growth and feed efficiency benefits and retaining the increased nutritional attributes of the chicken products. It will build on industry interest in the preliminary work, translating this research into industry practice and has direct applications to flaxseed growers, chicken feed producers and chicken production industries, and is squarely aligned with the South Australian Government’s Strategic Priority for premium food and wine from a clean environment.

Official launch of Foodplus and Public Event

The Foodplus Panel

The Foodplus Panel

On Wednesday the 8th December on the eve of the  launch of FOODplus Research Centre, a public event was held at the Elder Hall. A panel of nutrition experts was convened to discuss Food for Health and the myths surrounding this topic. This was a well attended event and provoked a lively discussion. The recording is now available here for those who missed this event or would like to hear it again.

We are very pleased to announce that on Thursday the 9th of December, Foodplus was officially launched in the Mortlock Chamber of the State Library by the Hon. Michael O’Brien, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and the Hon. John Hill, Minister for Health. Also  speaking at this event were Mr Frank Kite, chair of Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute council, Professor Roger Leigh, director of Waite Research Institute and Head of School of Agriculture Food and Wine, Richard Russell AM, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Operations) University of Adelaide and Professor Robert Gibson, director of FOODplus Research Centre.


Professor Rober Gibson, The Hon. Michael O'Brien and Professor Roger Leigh

Professor Rober Gibson, The Hon. Michael O'Brien and Professor Roger Leigh

Keeping Food Fresh for Longer: Challenges & Solutions – Podcast and Slidecast

On the 23rd of September, Amanda Able presented a talk on Keeping Food Fresh for Longer. You can listen to the audio recording, or watch the slidecast below.

In order to keep Dr Amanda Ablehorticultural produce fresh for longer, members of the supply chain have various post-harvest solutions available to them. However the effectiveness of these technologies is reliant upon an understanding of the physiology of the produce.

The laboratory of Dr Amanda J. Able at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus focuses upon gaining this understanding and the development of suitable post-harvest technologies.

Current research includes:

  • Developing the use of the ethylene action inhibitor, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), as a tool to extend shelf life of banana and determining the impact of 1-MCP on aroma, volatiles and consumer acceptability
  • Understanding why capsicum does not ripen when harvested green
  • The effect of Ca and B application (pre- and post-harvest) on the development of grey mould
  • The effect of 1-MCP and controlled atmosphere storage on health qualities of apples (such as antioxidant content).

However, there is a real need to link post-harvest technology with an increase in the long term benefits that could be derived from food (especially for human health). The Able laboratory is now seeking to examine the impact of post-harvest technologies on bioactive compounds, their bioavailability and impact on human health.

Nutrition in Population and public health – Podcast and Slidecast

OProfessor John Lynchn the 26th of August, the FOODplus seminar on Nutrition in Population and public health by Professor John Lynch drew a good crowd. You can listen to the talk here or you can watch the slidecast below.

Professor Lynch’s seminar placed the context of nutrition and in particular early life nutrition in an overall population health perspective. He traced some of the evidence for the historical importance of nutrition on improvements in population health in several countries since the 1850s.

He then traced the links between the role adult diet plays in various chronic diseases, through the evidence suggesting the developmental origins of adult nutrition, and discussed how the current research focus of his early life nutrition group at UniSA is attempting to characterize diet in children under 3 and examine associations with physiological risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as cognitive functioning at ages 15-16

Food and Satiety – Podcasts and Slidecasts

Dr Tanya Little and Dr Natalie Luscombe

The FOODplus seminars on the 19th of August was well attended. The topic was Food and Satiety, and we had two speakers. You can listen to Dr Tanya Little’s talk here and Dr Natalie Luscombe’s talk here. You can also watch slidecasts below.

Drs Natalie Luscombe-Marsh and Tanya Little are both post-doctoral researchers from the School of Medicine. Natalie and Tanya have an interest in understanding how the gut senses different macronutrients, and the differential effect of these macromolecules from the diet on gut function and satiety.

We learnt that fat has a more significant and prolonged appetite-suppressing effect than carbohydrate, and that this effect is also influenced by fat type; that is, properties of different fats, like chain length and degree of saturation, can alter how they affect gastrointestinal function and the release of gut peptides.

Natalie’s work focussed more on the gastrointestinal sensing of protein, and Natalie presented preliminary results from a trial that is currently underway which aims to better understand the impact of protein on gut function and satiety. There is no doubt that understanding more about how different foods and different food components influence satiety is important when we are trying to determine the potential health benefits of different foods.

The methods that were presented by Natalie and Tanya have enormous potential for helping us to understand how the novel food products developed within FOODplus might influence how long feelings of fullness are maintained after a meal and the release of gut peptides which are critical for the regulation of appetite.

Slidecast Avaliable – Improving human nutrition through food systems: studies in China, Colombia and Melanesia

Dr Graham Lyons’ talk on Micronutrient deficiencies, which affect over half the world’s human population. Biofortification may be an important component of a food system approach to reducing micronutrient malnutrition. Agronomic biofortification involves adding such micronutrients as zinc, iron, selenium and iodine either to the soil at planting or as a foliar spray when food crops are growing.