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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2003 Jan;228(1):15-23.

Neonatal nutrition: metabolic programming of pancreatic islets and obesity.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.


Obese individuals are more likely to suffer from diseases termed the "metabolic syndrome," which includes type 2 diabetes. It is now recognized that early life dietary experiences play an important role in the etiology of such diseases. In this context, the consequences of a high carbohydrate (HC) dietary intervention in neonatal rats is being studied in our laboratory. Artificial rearing of 4-day-old rat pups on a HC milk formula up to Day 24 results in the immediate onset of hyperinsulinemia, which persists throughout the period of dietary intervention. Several adaptations at the biochemical, cellular, and molecular levels in the islets of these HC rats support the onset and persistence of the hyperinsulinemic condition during this period. Some of these adaptations include a distinct leftward shift in the insulin secretory capacity, increased hexokinase activity, increased gene expression of preproinsulin and related transcription factors and specific kinases in 12-day-old HC islets, and alterations in the number and size of islets. These adaptations are programmed and expressed in adulthood thereby sustain the hyperinsulinemic condition in the postweaning period and form the basis for adult-onset obesity. HC females spontaneously transmit the HC phenotype (chronic hyperinsulinemia and adult-onset obesity) to their progeny. Collectively, our results indicate that even a mere switch in the nature of the source of calories (from fat rich in rat milk to carbohydrate rich in the HC milk formula) during critical phases of early development in the rat results in metabolic programming of islet functions leading to chronic hyperinsulinemia (throughout life) and adult-onset obesity. This metabolic programming, once established, forms a vicious cycle because HC female rats spontaneously transmit the HC phenotype to their progeny. The results from our laboratory in the context of metabolic programming due to neonatal nutritional experiences are discussed in this review.

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