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Endocrinology. 2015 Jan;156(1):182-92. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1523.

Mitigating or exacerbating effects of maternal-fetal programming of female mice through the food choice environment.

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Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (B.B., J.B., E.K., M.R.P.), Agricultural and Applied Economics (G.C.D.), and Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (M.T., J.D., G.C., J.Z., D.J.G.),Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061; and Department of Biomedical Sciences (M.R.P.), Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia 24060.


Humans live, eat, and become overweight/obese in complex surroundings where there are many available food choices. Prenatal exposure to poor food choices predisposes offspring to increased negative health risks, including obesity. Many animal experiments have analyzed intergenerational body weight parameters in an environment without food choices, which may not be directly translatable to the human food environment. In this study, offspring from mothers with a defined high-fat diet (HFD) or low-fat diet (LFD) were arbitrarily assigned to either an exclusively LFD or HFD or to a diet where they have a choice between LFD and HFD (choice diet). Offspring displayed negative outcomes of increased body weight, body fat, serum leptin, and blood glucose levels when given the choice diet compared with offspring on the LFD. Conversely, improved energy expenditure was found for offspring given the choice diet compared with offspring from HFD dams given LFD. In addition, maternal diet-specific influences on offspring metabolic parameters were identified, especially in offspring from HFD dams, including positive outcomes of reduced leptin in LFD offspring, reduced corticosterone and cholesterol levels in HFD offspring, and increased exercise levels in choice offspring, as well as the negative outcome of increased calorie intake in LFD offspring from HFD dams. This defined model can now be used as the basis for future studies to characterize the cycle of inter- and intragenerational obesity and whether more realistic diet environments, especially those including choice, can mitigate phenotype.

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