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      Perinatal Exposure to High-Fat Diet Programs Energy Balance, Metabolism and Behavior in Adulthood


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          The perinatal environment plays an important role in programming many aspects of physiology and behavior including metabolism, body weight set point, energy balance regulation and predisposition to mental health-related disorders such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Maternal health and nutritional status heavily influence the early environment and have a long-term impact on critical central pathways, including the melanocortinergic, serotonergic system and dopaminergic systems. Evidence from a variety of animal models including rodents and nonhuman primates indicates that exposure to maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption programs offspring for increased risk of adult obesity. Hyperphagia and increased preference for fatty and sugary foods are implicated as mechanisms for the increased obesity risk. The effects of maternal HFD consumption on energy expenditure are unclear, and future studies need to address the impact of perinatal HFD exposure on this important component of energy balance regulation. Recent evidence from animal models also indicates that maternal HFD consumption increases the risk of offspring developing mental health-related disorders such as anxiety. Potential mechanisms for perinatal HFD programming of neural pathways include circulating factors, such as hormones (leptin, insulin), nutrients (fatty acids, triglycerides and glucose) and inflammatory cytokines. As maternal HFD consumption and obesity are common and rapidly increasing, we speculate that future generations will be at increased risk for both metabolic and mental health disorders. Thus, it is critical that future studies identify therapeutic strategies that are effective at preventing maternal HFD-induced malprogramming.

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          Most cited references 67

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          Fetal origins of obesity.

          The worldwide epidemic of obesity continues unabated. Obesity is notoriously difficult to treat, and, thus, prevention is critical. A new paradigm for prevention, which evolved from the notion that environmental factors in utero may influence lifelong health, has emerged in recent years. A large number of epidemiological studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between birth weight and BMI attained in later life. Although the data are limited by lack of information on potential confounders, these associations seem robust. Possible mechanisms include lasting changes in proportions of fat and lean body mass, central nervous system appetite control, and pancreatic structure and function. Additionally, lower birth weight seems to be associated with later risk for central obesity, which also confers increased cardiovascular risk. This association may be mediated through changes in the hypothalamic pituitary axis, insulin secretion and sensing, and vascular responsiveness. The combination of lower birth weight and higher attained BMI is most strongly associated with later disease risk. We are faced with the seeming paradox of increased adiposity at both ends of the birth weight spectrum-higher BMI with higher birth weight and increased central obesity with lower birth weight. Future research on molecular genetics, intrauterine growth, growth trajectories after birth, and relationships of fat and lean mass will elucidate relationships between early life experiences and later body proportions. Prevention of obesity starting in childhood is critical and can have lifelong, perhaps multigenerational, impact.
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            Maternal high-fat diet triggers lipotoxicity in the fetal livers of nonhuman primates.

            Maternal obesity is thought to increase the offspring's risk of juvenile obesity and metabolic diseases; however, the mechanism(s) whereby excess maternal nutrition affects fetal development remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated in nonhuman primates the effect of chronic high-fat diet (HFD) on the development of fetal metabolic systems. We found that fetal offspring from both lean and obese mothers chronically consuming a HFD had a 3-fold increase in liver triglycerides (TGs). In addition, fetal offspring from HFD-fed mothers (O-HFD) showed increased evidence of hepatic oxidative stress early in the third trimester, consistent with the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). O-HFD animals also exhibited elevated hepatic expression of gluconeogenic enzymes and transcription factors. Furthermore, fetal glycerol levels were 2-fold higher in O-HFD animals than in control fetal offspring and correlated with maternal levels. The increased fetal hepatic TG levels persisted at P180, concurrent with a 2-fold increase in percent body fat. Importantly, reversing the maternal HFD to a low-fat diet during a subsequent pregnancy improved fetal hepatic TG levels and partially normalized gluconeogenic enzyme expression, without changing maternal body weight. These results suggest that a developing fetus is highly vulnerable to excess lipids, independent of maternal diabetes and/or obesity, and that exposure to this may increase the risk of pediatric NAFLD.
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              Neonatal leptin treatment reverses developmental programming.

              An adverse prenatal environment may induce long-term metabolic consequences, in particular obesity and insulin resistance. Although the mechanisms are unclear, this programming has generally been considered an irreversible change in developmental trajectory. Adult offspring of rats subjected to undernutrition during pregnancy develop obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia, especially in the presence of a high-fat diet. Reduced locomotor activity and hyperphagia contribute to the increased fat mass. Using this model of maternal undernutrition, we investigated the effects of neonatal leptin treatment on the metabolic phenotype of adult female offspring. Leptin treatment (rec-rat leptin, 2.5 microg/g.d, sc) from postnatal d 3-13 resulted in a transient slowing of neonatal weight gain, particularly in programmed offspring, and normalized caloric intake, locomotor activity, body weight, fat mass, and fasting plasma glucose, insulin, and leptin concentrations in programmed offspring in adult life in contrast to saline-treated offspring of undernourished mothers who developed all these features on a high-fat diet. Neonatal leptin had no demonstrable effects on the adult offspring of normally fed mothers. This study suggests that developmental metabolic programming is potentially reversible by an intervention late in the phase of developmental plasticity. The complete normalization of the programmed phenotype by neonatal leptin treatment implies that leptin has effects that reverse the prenatal adaptations resulting from relative fetal undernutrition.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG (Allschwilerstrasse 10, P.O. Box · Postfach · Case postale, CH–4009, Basel, Switzerland · Schweiz · Suisse, Phone: +41 61 306 11 11, Fax: +41 61 306 12 34, karger@karger.ch )
                February 2011
                13 November 2010
                1 February 2012
                : 93
                : 1
                : 1-8
                Department of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, Oreg., USA
                Author notes
                *Elinor L. Sullivan, PhD, Department of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, 505 NW 185th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97006 (USA), Tel. +1 503 690 5510, Fax +1 503 690 5384, E-Mail sullivel@ 123456ohsu.edu
                Copyright © 2010 by S. Karger AG, Basel

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Karger's Author's Choice™ licensing agreement, adapted from the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 2.5 license. This license allows authors to re-use their articles for educational and research purposes as long as the author and the journal are fully acknowledged.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, References: 67, Pages: 8
                At the Cutting Edge


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