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BACKGROUND: Maternal overnutrition during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of obesity and cardiometabolic disease in the offspring; a phenomenon attributed to 'developmental programming'. The post-weaning development of obesity may associate with exacerbation of the programmed metabolic phenotype. In mice, we have previously shown that exposure to maternal overnutrition causes increased weight gain in offspring before weaning, but exerts no persistent effects on weight or glucose tolerance in adulthood. In order to determine whether post-weaning exposure to a cafeteria diet might lead to an exacerbation of programmed effects, offspring born and raised by mothers on control (CON) or cafeteria (DIO) diets were transferred onto either CON or DIO diets at weaning.
FINDINGS: Post-weaning DIO caused the development of obesity, with hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinaemia in males; and obesity with hyperinsulinaemia in females and with increased cholesterol levels in both sexes. Exposure to maternal overnutrition during pregnancy and lactation caused only subtle additional effects on offspring phenotype.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that post-weaning exposure to a high-fat high-sugar diet has a more profound effect on offspring weight gain and glucose tolerance than exposure to maternal overnutrition. These data emphasise the importance of optimising early life nutrition in offspring of both obese and lean mothers.