Background/objectives: The current obesity epidemic has spurred exploration of the developmental origin of adult heath and disease. A mother's dietary choices and health can affect both the early wellbeing and lifelong disease-risk of the offspring.
Subjects/methods: To determine if changes in the mother's diet and adiposity have long-term effects on the baby's metabolism, independently from a prenatal insult, we utilized a mouse model of diet-induced-obesity and cross-fostering. All pups were born to lean dams fed a low fat diet but were fostered onto lean or obese dams fed a high fat diet. This study design allowed us to discern the effects of a poor diet from those of mother's adiposity and metabolism. The weaned offspring were placed on a high fat diet to test their metabolic function.
Results: In this feeding challenge, all male (but not female) offspring developed metabolic dysfunction. We saw increased weight gain in the pups nursed on an obesity-resistant dam fed a high fat diet, and increased pathogenesis including liver steatosis and adipose tissue inflammation, when compared to pups nursed on either obesity-prone dams on a high fat diet or lean dams on a low fat diet.
Conclusion: Exposure to maternal over-nutrition, through the milk, is sufficient to shape offspring health outcomes in a sex- and organ-specific manner, and milk from a mother who is obesity-prone may partially protect the offspring from the insult of a poor diet.