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Exp Clin Cardiol. 2006 Summer;11(2):129-35.

Maternal diet rich in saturated fats has deleterious effects on plasma lipids of mice.

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Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland.



High dietary fat intake has been reported to cause an alteration in lipid metabolism that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In the present study, an animal model was used to evaluate the effects of feeding diets rich in different fatty acids to mothers during pregnancy and lactation, and the effects of the maternal diet on parameters of lipid metabolism in adult offspring. The interaction between the offspring's own diet and the programming due to the maternal diet was also evaluated.


Female C57BL/6 mice were fed a high-fat diet (20% fat [weight to weight]) rich in either saturated fatty acids (SFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) for two weeks before mating, during pregnancy and until weaning. The offspring were divided into two groups; each group was fed a high-fat diet enriched in either SFA or PUFA for eight weeks after weaning. The groups were designated as SFA/SFA (diet of the mother/diet of the offspring), SFA/PUFA, PUFA/PUFA and PUFA/SFA. Blood and tissues were collected at the end of the eight-week feeding period after an overnight fast.


The plasma total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were significantly higher in the SFA/SFA group than in all other groups, whereas the PUFA/PUFA group had the lowest total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. Plasma high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were significantly higher in the PUFA/SFA group than in the PUFA/PUFA and SFA/PUFA groups, whereas plasma triglyceride concentrations were not different among the groups.


The data suggest that high maternal dietary fat intake during pregnancy affects lipid metabolism in the adult offspring. However, it appears that the offspring's own diet is also important in maintaining the regulation of lipid metabolism.


Atherosclerosis; Diet; Fetal programming; Lipid metabolism; Polyunsaturated fats; Predictive adaptive responses

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