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J Inherit Metab Dis. 2009 Apr;32(2):218-28. doi: 10.1007/s10545-008-1033-4. Epub 2008 Dec 22.

Metabolic programming: Role of nutrition in the immediate postnatal life.

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Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, 140 Farber Hall, 3435 Main Street, Buffalo, NY, 14214, USA.


Although genes and dietary habits are generally implicated in the aetiology of the prevailing obesity epidemic, the steep increase in the incidence of obesity within a relatively short span of time suggests that other contributing factors may be at play. The role of nutritional experience during the very early periods of life is increasingly being recognized as contributing to growth and metabolic changes in later life. Epidemiological data and studies from animal models have established a strong correlation between an aberrant intrauterine environment and adult-onset disorders in offspring. The nutritional experience in the immediate postnatal life is another independent factor contributing to the development of metabolic diseases in adulthood. Although studies on the small-litter rat model have shown that overnourishment during the suckling period results in adult-onset metabolic disorders, our studies have shown that a change in the quality of calories-specifically, increased carbohydrate intake by newborn rat pups in the immediate postnatal period-results in chronic hyperinsulinaemia and adult-onset obesity. Several functional alterations in islets and in the hypothalamic energy homeostatic mechanism appear to support this phenotype. Remarkably, female rats that underwent the high-carbohydrate dietary modification as neonates spontaneously transmitted the obesity phenotype to their offspring, thus establishing a vicious generational effect. The high-carbohydrate diet-fed rat model has particular relevance in the context of the current human infant feeding practices: reduction in breast feeding and increase in formula feeding for infants, accompanied by early introduction of carbohydrate-enriched baby foods.

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