Pregnant rats fed a diet of junk food produce offspring with a taste for sweet and salty treats and a higher risk of obesity, Australian research shows.

Even when fed a healthy diet after weaning, they continue to seek out junk food more than rats from healthy mothers and are prone to put on more weight, The Advertiser reported.

PhD student Zhi Yi Ong, at the University of South Australia, said the research has implications for humans.

She fed pregnant rats fatty and salty foods such as cookies, peanut butter, Cheetos and Fruit Loops to find out if offspring fed a healthy, balanced diet could recover from the effects of their mother's diet.

However, she said the offspring is still predisposed to junk food-induced obesity later on in life.

"If a mother has everything in moderation -- not too much junk food -- and maintains a healthy diet, that will dictate what her offspring prefers later on," Ong said.

"If you give them junk food when they're older, they tend to just go for it and then become fatter easier than those offspring from the healthy mother."

Click for more from Adelaide Now.