High Maternal Omega-3 Supplementation Dysregulates Body Weight and Leptin in Newborn Male and Female Rats: Implications for Hypothalamic Developmental Programming

Nutrients. 2020 Dec 30;13(1):89. doi: 10.3390/nu13010089.


Maternal diet is critical for offspring development and long-term health. Here we investigated the effects of a poor maternal diet pre-conception and during pregnancy on metabolic outcomes and the developing hypothalamus in male and female offspring at birth. We hypothesised that offspring born to dams fed a diet high in fat and sugar (HFSD) peri-pregnancy will have disrupted metabolic outcomes. We also determined if these HFSD-related effects could be reversed by a shift to a healthier diet post-conception, in particular to a diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3 PUFAs), since ω3 PUFAs are considered essential for normal neurodevelopment. Unexpectedly, our data show that there are minimal negative effects of maternal HFSD on newborn pups. On the other hand, consumption of an ω3-replete diet during pregnancy altered several developmental parameters. As such, pups born to high-ω3-fed dams weighed less for their length, had reduced circulating leptin, and also displayed sex-specific disruption in the expression of hypothalamic neuropeptides. Collectively, our study shows that maternal intake of a diet rich in ω3 PUFAs during pregnancy may be detrimental for some metabolic developmental outcomes in the offspring. These data indicate the importance of a balanced dietary intake in pregnancy and highlight the need for further research into the impact of maternal ω3 intake on offspring development and long-term health.

Keywords: development; hypothalamus; leptin; omega-3; pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Rats


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Leptin