Are you fighting off intense food cravings now that you’re pregnant? It turns out that fruit flies know just what you’re going through.
A new report published in the journal Current Biology aims to answer some serious questions about expectant moms and their nutrition. What changes in the brain lead to pregnancy cravings? To answer this question and more, researchers turned to the humble fruit fly.
“To understand how the brain regulates nutrient intake, you need to work in an organism that gives you access to a lot of diverse technologies. In that respect, the fruit fly is unbeatable,” Dr. Carlos Ribeiro, lead researcher, said in a statement to Medical News Today. “We wanted to exploit these tools to uncover how the female fly’s food preferences changed after mating.”
A surprising finding? Salt plays a major role in a healthy pregnancy. Through their research with the flies, the scientists drew parallels between increased salt consumption and a higher production of offspring.
“We found that there is a direct correlation between the amount of salt in the diet and the amount of eggs they were able to produce,” Dr. Ribeiro says of the expecting flies. “It seems that salt is important everywhere, from flies, to elephants, to humans. It also suggests the existence of unifying biological principles underlying this behavior that could be traced across species.”
The researchers concluded that, during conception, the male shares a molecule with his partner that affects her perception of taste. This transmission allows for an expectant mom – fly or mammal – to take in higher levels of sodium throughout pregnancy.
Hold the salt
Before you go crazy with your salt shaker, know this: While many believe pregnancy cravings to be linked to the nutritional needs of the developing fetus, a sodium craving doesn’t give you carte blanche to salt with abandon. In fact, not keeping your salt intake in check can exacerbate certain pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure.
For now, we can take this study as a fascinating glimpse into the science of reproduction – and a comfort knowing that we’re not alone in our pregnancy-related suffering.
This latest study brings us one step closer to understanding the pregnant brain. Next up for these researchers? They’re eager to dive in and discover “ how the brain’s response to salt changes after mating to bring about this cross-species behavior.” Stay tuned.