Childhood obesity and its comorbidities continue to accelerate across the globe. Two-thirds of pregnant women are obese/overweight, as are 20% of preschoolers. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is escalating, affecting up to 1 in 5 pregnant women. The field of developmental origins of health and disease has begun to move beyond associations to potential causal mechanisms for developmental programming. Evidence across species compellingly demonstrates that maternal obesity, diabetes, and Western-style diets create a long-lasting signature on multiple systems, including infant stem cells, the early immune system, and gut microbiota. Such exposures accelerate adipogenesis, disrupt mitochondrial metabolism, and impair energy sensing, affecting neurodevelopment, liver, pancreas, and skeletal muscle. Attempts to prevent developmental programming have met with very limited success. A challenging level of complexity is involved in how the host genome, metabolome, and microbiome throughout pregnancy and lactation increase the offspring's risk of metabolic diseases across the life span. Considerable gaps in knowledge include the timing of exposure(s) and permanence or plasticity of the response, encompassing effects from both maternal and paternal dysmetabolism. Basic, translational, and human intervention studies targeting pathways that connect diet, microbiota, and metabolism in mothers with obesity/GDM and their infants are a critical unmet need and present new challenges for disease prevention in the next generation.
© 2018 by the American Diabetes Association.