British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Metabolism and Metabolic Studies

Long-term maternal high-fat feeding from weaning through pregnancy and lactation predisposes offspring to hypertension, raised plasma lipids and fatty liver in mice

Maqsood M. Elahia1, Felino R. Cagampanga1, Dhea Mukhtara1, Frederick W. Anthonya1, Sunil K. Ohria2 and Mark A. Hansona1 c1

a1 Institute of Developmental Sciences, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Division, University of Southampton School of Medicine, Southampton General Hospital, Mailpoint 887, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a2 Wessex Cardiothoracic Centre, University of Southampton School of Medicine, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 0YD, UK


In rodents, adverse prenatal nutrition, such as a maternal diet rich in fat during pregnancy, enhances susceptibility of the offspring to hypertension, type 2 diabetes and other features of the human metabolic syndrome in adulthood. However, previous experimental studies were confined to short-term modifications of the maternal diet during pregnancy and/or lactation periods, a situation uncommon in humans. Moreover in humans, the offspring may also consume a high-fat diet, which may take them beyond the range to which their development has adapted them to respond healthily. We examined in C57 mice the effects on offspring of feeding their mothers a high-fat (HF) or standard chow (C) diet from weaning through pregnancy and lactation, and whether there are additive phenotypic effects of feeding the offspring an HF diet from weaning to adulthood (dam–offspring dietary group HF-HF). This group was compared with offspring from HF-fed dams fed a C diet from weaning to adulthood (HF-C) and offspring from C-fed mothers fed the C or HF diet (C-C and HF-C, respectively). HF-HF, HF-C and C-HF adult female offspring were heavier, fatter, and had raised serum cholesterol and blood pressure compared with C-C female offspring. We observed a similar trend in male offspring except for the HF-C group which was not heavier or fatter than male C-C offspring. Histology showed lipid vacuoles within hepatocytes in the HF-HF, HF-C and C-HF but not the CC offspring. Serum C-reactive protein was elevated in female (C-HF and HF-HF) but not in male offspring. Elevated blood pressure in the HF-C and C-HF groups was attenuated in the HF-HF group in males but not in females. These findings indicate that long-term consumption of an HF diet by the mother predisposes her offspring to developing a metabolic syndrome-like phenotype in adult life, although cardiovascular effects of an HF diet are related to sex specificity in the HF-HF group.

(Received June 13 2008)

(Revised October 22 2008)

(Accepted December 01 2008)

(Online publication February 10 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Mark A. Hanson, fax +44 238 0785255, email


Abbreviations: BP, blood pressure; C, chow; CRP, C-reactive protein; HF, high-fat