How can a pregnant woman harm her baby by eating fast food?
Perhaps these are the ultimate sacrifices.
Eating fast or ultra-processed food during pregnancy puts the fetus at greater health risk, new research warns.
Aside from fat and calories, the danger stems from chemicals that often find their way into burgers and fries, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington School of Medicine and published last month in the journal Environment International.
Known as phthalates, these chemicals are commonly shed by fast food wrappers or workers’ plastic gloves, and have been linked to autism, ADHD, premature birth, and low birth weight.
When food is contaminated with these small-sized harmful plasticizers, the chemicals can enter the pregnant mother’s bloodstream.
“When mothers are exposed to this chemical, it can cross the placenta and enter the fetal circulation,” said Dr. Sheela Satyanarayana, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin.
When 1,031 pregnant women in their second trimester were studied, researchers found that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher concentration of one of the most common and harmful phthalates.
The researchers warned that in addition to common fast food such as French fries, burger buns and soft drinks, cake mixes may also be at risk.
“We’re not blaming the pregnant woman here,” researcher Brennan Baker said. “We need to call on manufacturers and regulators to offer alternatives (in food processing and packaging), ones that may not be more harmful.”
Now, Satyanarayana advises pregnant women to avoid junk and processed foods as much as possible.
Instead, they should look for fruits, vegetables, lean meats and breakfast bars made with organic fruits like dates instead of fats and sugars.
“Look for the smallest number of ingredients and make sure you can understand the ingredients,” she said.
Unrelated research has also found that boys born to obese mothers are more likely to develop diabetes.