The offspring of obese mothers consuming a high-fat diet during pregnancy are at a higher risk for lifelong obesity and related metabolic disorders, than children of thin mothers, a new study has found.
Conducted in mice, the study by researchers at Yale School of Medicine and the University of Cologne, showed that the offspring of mothers who consumed a high-fat diet during lactation had abnormal neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus - a key brain region that regulates metabolism.
“Our study suggests that expecting mothers can have major impact on the long-term metabolic health of their children by properly controlling nutrition during this critical developmental period of the offspring,” study’s co-lead author Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of comparative medicine at Yale School of Medicine, said.
Horvath and his collaborators at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research and at the University of Cologne developed a mouse model of metabolic programming.
They found that mouse mothers fed a high-fat diet during breastfeeding had offspring with abnormal neuronal connections in the hypothalamus, as well as altered insulin signaling in this brain circuit.
As a result, the offspring remained overweight and had abnormalities in glucose metabolism throughout life.
Horvath and his colleagues said the study helps identify the key point in pregnancy when maternal nutrition has the most impact on an offspring’s metabolic health.
The study is published in the journal Cell.