Maternal high-fat diet induces insulin resistance and deterioration of pancreatic β-cell function in adult offspring with sex differences in mice

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 May 15;306(10):E1163-75. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00688.2013. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Intrauterine environment may influence the health of postnatal offspring. There have been many studies on the effects of maternal high-fat diet (HFD) on diabetes and glucose metabolism in offspring. Here, we investigated the effects in male and female offspring. C57/BL6J mice were bred and fed either control diet (CD) or HFD from conception to weaning, and offspring were fed CD or HFD from 6 to 20 wk. At 20 wk, maternal HFD induced glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in offspring. Additionally, liver triacylglycerol content, adipose tissue mass, and inflammation increased in maternal HFD. In contrast, extending previous observations, insulin secretion at glucose tolerance test, islet area, insulin content, and PDX-1 mRNA levels in isolated islets were lower in maternal HFD in males, whereas they were higher in females. Oxidative stress in islets increased in maternal HFD in males, whereas there were no differences in females. Plasma estradiol levels were lower in males than in females and decreased in offspring fed HFD and also decreased by maternal HFD, suggesting that females may be protected from insulin deficiency by inhibiting oxidative stress. In conclusion, maternal HFD induced insulin resistance and deterioration of pancreatic β-cell function, with marked sex differences in adult offspring accompanied by adipose tissue inflammation and liver steatosis. Additionally, our results demonstrate that potential mechanisms underlying sex differences in pancreatic β-cell function may be related partially to increases in oxidative stress in male islets and decreased plasma estradiol levels in males.

Keywords: high-fat diet; insulin resistance; maternal exposure; oxidative stress; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology
  • Sex Factors


  • Dietary Fats