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Int J Dev Neurosci. 2013 Dec;31(8):731-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Sep 23.

Delayed physical and neurobehavioral development and increased aggressive and depression-like behaviors in the rat offspring of dams fed a high-fat diet.

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Department of Biosciences - Federal University of Sao Paulo/UNIFESP (Campus Baixada Santista), 11060-001 Santos, Brazil; Interdisciplinary Master in Health Sciences/UNIFESP (Campus Baixada Santista), 11060-001 Santos, Brazil.


Early maternal exposure to a high-fat diet (HFD) may influence the brain development of rat offspring and consequently affect physiology and behavior. Thus, in the present study, we investigated the somatic, physical, sensory-motor and neurobehavioral development of the offspring of dams fed an HFD (52% calories from fat, mainly saturated) and the offspring of dams fed a control diet (CD - 14.7% fat) during lactation from the 1st to the 21st postnatal day (P). Maternal body weights were evaluated during lactation. In the progeny, somatic (body weight, head and lengths axes) and physical (ear unfolding, auditory conduit opening, eruption of the incisors and eye opening) development and the consolidation of reflex responses (palm grasp, righting, vibrissa placing, cliff avoidance, negative geotaxis, auditory startle response and free-fall righting) were determined during suckling. Depressive and aggressive behaviors were tested with the forced swimming test (FST) and the "foot-shock" test on days 60 and 110, respectively. The open field test was used to assess motor function. Compared to controls, the HFD-pups exhibited decreases in body weight (P7-P21) and body length (P4-P18), but by days P71 and P95, these pups were overweight. All indicators of physical maturation and the consolidation of the following reflexes, vibrissa placing, auditory startle responses, free-fall righting and negative geotaxis, were delayed in HFD-progeny. In addition, the pups from HFD dam rats also exhibited reduced swimming and climbing times in the FST and increased aggressive behavior. No changes in locomotion were observed. These findings show developmental and neurobehavioral changes in the rat offspring of dams fed the HFD during lactation and suggest possible disruption of physical and sensory-motor maturation and increased susceptibility to depressive and aggressive-like behavior.


Aggressiveness; Depression; High-fat diet; Lactation; Offspring; Physical growth; Reflex ontogeny

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