It may be the ultimate sacrifries.
New research warns that eating ultra-processed and fast foods during pregnancy puts the fetus at a greater health risk.
Greasiness and calories aside, the risk stems from chemicals that often find their way into burgers and fries, according to the study from the University of Washington School of Medicine published last month in Environment International.
Known as phthalates, these chemicals commonly shed off fast food wrappers or workers’ plastic gloves and have been associated with autism, ADHD, preterm birth, and low birth weight.
When food is contaminated by these harmful, microsized plasticizers, the chemicals can enter a pregnant mother’s bloodstream.
“When moms are exposed to this chemical, it can cross the placenta and go into fetal circulation,” said senior author Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a UW Medicine pediatrician.
When 1,031 pregnant women were studied in the second trimester of their pregnancies, researchers found that greater consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher concentration of one of the most common and harmful phthalates.
Researchers warned that in addition to common fast food items like fries, burger buns, and soft drinks, cake mixes could also be at risk.
“We don’t blame the pregnant person here,” said researcher Brennan Baker. “We need to call out manufacturers and legislators to offer replacements [in food handling and packaging], and ones that may not be even more harmful.”
Now, Sathyanarayana is advising pregnant women to avoid fast and processed foods as much as they can.
Instead, they should seek fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and breakfast bars made with organic fruits like dates rather than fats and sugars.
“Look for the lower number of ingredients and make sure you can understand the ingredients,” she said.
Unrelated research also found that boys born to obese moms have a higher risk of developing diabetes.