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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Aug;14(8):1330-43.

The importance of catch-up growth after early malnutrition for the programming of obesity in male rat.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.



To investigate whether catch-up growth after maternal malnutrition would favor the development of obesity in adulthood.


Pregnant rats were submitted to protein or calorie restriction during the course of gestation. During lactation, pups were protein-restricted, normally fed, or overfed [reduced litter size, control (C) diet]. At weaning, rats were transferred to chow or to a hypercaloric diet (HCD) known to induce obesity. Body weight, food intake, blood parameters, glucose tolerance, adipocyte cellularity, and adipose factors contributing to cardiovascular disease development were measured.


Protein and calorie restriction during gestation led to growth retardation at birth. If malnutrition was prolonged throughout lactation, adult body weight was permanently reduced. However, growth-retarded offspring overfed during the suckling period underwent a rapid catch-up growth and became heavier than the normally fed Cs. Offspring of calorie-restricted rats gained more weight than those of dams fed protein-restricted diet. Feeding an HCD postnatally amplified the effect of calorie restriction, and offspring that underwent catch-up growth became more obese than Cs. The HCD was associated with hyperphagia, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and adipocyte hypertrophy. The magnitude of effects varied depending on the type and the timing of early malnutrition. The expression of genes encoding factors implicated in cardiovascular disease was also modulated differently by early malnutrition and adult obesity.


Catch-up growth immediately after early malnutrition should be a key point for the programming of obesity.

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