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Physiol Behav. 2012 Nov 5;107(4):568-75. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.024. Epub 2012 May 4.

Effects of perinatal exposure to palatable diets on body weight and sensitivity to drugs of abuse in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of fat- and sugar-rich diets in utero and during the pre-weaning period on bodyweight and responses to drugs of abuse. In Exp. 1, dams were fed a balanced control diet or high-fat diet (HFD), and female offspring were cross-fostered to dams consuming the balanced diet. The HFD-exposed offspring, compared to controls, were heavier in body weight, had increased circulating triglyceride levels, and consumed more alcohol and HFD in adulthood. In Exp. 2, dams were fed standard chow alone or standard chow plus a 16% high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or 10% sucrose solution. Sets of offspring from each group were cross-fostered to dams in the other groups, allowing for the effects of HFCS or sucrose exposure during the gestational period or pre-weaning period to be determined. The offspring (both female and male) exposed to HFCS or sucrose in utero had higher body weights in adulthood and exhibited increased alcohol intake as shown in female offspring and increased amphetamine-induced locomotor activity as shown in males. Exposure to HFCS or sucrose only during the pre-weaning period had a similar effect of increasing amphetamine-induced locomotor activity in males, but produced no change in circulating triglycerides or alcohol intake. Collectively, these data suggest that prenatal as well as pre-weaning exposure to fat- and sugar-rich diets, in addition to increasing body weight, can affect responses to drugs of abuse.

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