Women who eat diets high in fat and junk foods risk damaging the health of three future generations of their family, according to new research.
According to The Daily Mail, their poor eating habits could cause obesity, diabetes and addiction to alcohol or drugs in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren even if their offspring eat well, warn scientists.
Experiments found female mice who consumed a high-fat diet before, during and after pregnancy passed on metabolic problems and addictive tendencies through their bloodline.
Researchers at the University of Zurich said that the lasting effects of fatty diets of female mice suggest that women need to be warned that relying on fast food could not only endanger their lives but risks the health of generations to come.
Corresponding author Dr Daria Peleg-Raibstein said: 'Most studies so far have only looked at the second generation or followed the long-term effects of obesity and diabetes on the immediate offspring.
'This study is the first to look at the effects of maternal overeating up until the third generation in the context of addiction as well as obesity.'
It adds to a growing body of evidence that eating too many hamburgers, pizzas, chicken nuggets and chips alters genes - that are then inherited by offspring.
Experts say the phenomenon not only applies to mothers but fathers as well.
It didn't matter that the original female mice that were fed high-fat diets never became obese themselves, nor that none of the following generations consumed a high-fat diet - the genetic damage was done.
Dr Peleg-Raibstein said: 'To combat the current obesity epidemic, it is important to identify the underlying mechanisms and to find ways for early prevention.
'The research could help improve health advice and education for pregnant and breastfeeding couples and give their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a better chance of a healthy lifestyle.
'It may also provide a way of identifying risk factors for how people develop obesity and addiction and suggest early interventions for at-risk groups.'
In the study, published in Translational Psychiatry, female mice were fed either a high-fat or standard laboratory diet for nine weeks before mating and then during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Dr Peleg-Rabstein and her colleagues then measured body weight, insulin sensitivity, metabolic rates and blood plasma levels such as insulin and cholesterol in the second and third generations.
In behavioral experiments, they investigated whether the mice chose a high-fat diet over a standard laboratory diet or an alcohol solution over water, and assessed their activity levels after exposure to amphetamines.
The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the mice with high-fat diets were all more prone to addictive behaviors, though by the third generation the females' predisposition for obesity seemed to normalize.