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Nutr Diabetes. 2012 Dec 17;2:e57. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2012.31.

Chronic prenatal ethanol exposure increases adiposity and disrupts pancreatic morphology in adult guinea pig offspring.

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Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Ethanol consumption during pregnancy can lead to a range of adverse developmental outcomes in children, termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Central nervous system injury is a debilitating and widely studied manifestation of chronic prenatal ethanol exposure (CPEE). However, CPEE can also cause structural and functional deficits in metabolic pathways in offspring.


This study tested the hypothesis that CPEE increases whole-body adiposity and disrupts pancreatic structure in guinea pig offspring. Pregnant guinea pigs received ethanol (4 g kg(-1) maternal body weight per day) or isocaloric-sucrose/pair-feeding (control) for 5 days per week throughout gestation.


Male and female CPEE offspring demonstrated growth restriction at birth, followed by a rapid period of catch-up growth before weaning (postnatal day (PD) 1-7). Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in young adult offspring (PD100-140) revealed increased visceral and subcutaneous adiposity produced by CPEE. At the time of killing (PD150-200), CPEE offspring also had increased pancreatic adipocyte area and decreased β-cell insulin-like immunopositive area, suggesting reduced insulin production and/or secretion from pancreatic islets.


CPEE causes increased adiposity and pancreatic dysmorphology in offspring, which may signify increased risk for the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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