In utero nutritional stress as a cause of obesity: Altered relationship between body fat, leptin levels and caloric intake in offspring into adulthood

Academic Article


  • Aims: Emerging evidence suggests that during gestation the in utero environment programs metabolism and can increase risk of obesity in adult offspring. Our aim was to study how alterations in maternal diets during gestation might alter body weight evolution, circulating leptin levels and caloric intake in offspring, leading to changes in body composition. Materials and methods: We fed gestating rats either a control diet (CD), high fat diet (HFD) or an isocaloric low protein diet (LPD), and examined the repercussions in offspring fed similar diets post-weaning on birth weight, body weight evolution, body composition, insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and in the relationship between plasma leptin concentration and caloric intake in offspring during growth and development. Key finds: Offspring from dams fed LPD maintained reduced body weight with greater % lean mass and consumed fewer calories despite having leptin levels similar to controls. On the other hand, offspring from dams fed a HFD were insulin resistant and maintained increased body weight and % fat mass, while consuming more calories than controls despite elevated leptin concentrations. Therefore the uterine environment, modulated primarily through maternal nutrition, modified the relationship between circulating leptin levels, body fat, and caloric intake in the offspring, and dams fed a HFD produced offspring with excess adiposity, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance into adulthood. Significance: Our data indicates that in utero environmental factors affected by maternal diet program alterations in the set point around which leptin regulates body weight in offspring into adulthood contributing to obesity.
  • Published In

  • Life Sciences  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sertie R; Kang M; Antipenko JP; Liu X; Maianu L; Habegger K; Garvey WT
  • Volume

  • 254