While much is known about adult obesity in nonhuman primates, very little is known regarding development of childhood adiposity. As small monkeys that are easy to handle and have a relatively fast life history, common marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) offer interesting opportunities to examine the question of fat versus lean mass growth in a nonhuman primate. This article provides an overview of our understanding of early life growth in mass in marmoset monkeys, based primarily upon our past 20 years of research, culminating in our recent findings on early life obesity in this species. Common marmosets display variance in early life growth patterns that is related to both pre- and postnatal factors and the marmoset uterine environment is exquisitely designed to reflect resources available for the gestation of multiple offspring, making them an interesting model of developmental programming. We have demonstrated that obesity can be generated in very early life in captive marmosets, with excess adiposity evident by one month of age, making this species a potentially valuable model in which to study pediatric obesity and its sequelae. Birth weight is associated with adiposity in animals vulnerable to obesity. Early life exposure to higher fat diets enhances the chances of postweaning obesity development. However, overall higher food consumption is also associated with obesity development at later ages. One unexpected finding in our studies has been the relatively high body fat percentage of neonatal (12-18%) marmosets suggesting that hypotheses regarding the uniqueness of high human neonatal adiposity merit further examination.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.