British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Long-term programming of blood pressure by maternal dietary iron restriction in the rat

Rohan M. Lewisa1 c1, Alison J. Forheada2, Clive J. Petrya1, Susan E. Ozannea1 and C. Nicolas Halesa1

a1 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QR, UK

a2 Department of Physiology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EG, UK


We have reported that blood pressure was elevated in 3-month-old rats whose mothers were Fe-restricted during pregnancy. These animals also had improved glucose tolerance and decreased serum triacylglycerol. The aim of the present study was to determine whether these effects of maternal nutritional restriction, present in these animals at 3 months of age, can be observed in the same animals in later life. Pulmonary and serum angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) concentrations were also measured to investigate whether the renin–angiotensin system was involved in the elevation of blood pressure observed in the offspring of Fe-restricted dams. Systolic blood pressure was higher in the offspring of Fe-restricted dams at 16 months of age. Heart and kidney weight were increased as a proportion of body weight in the offspring of Fe-restricted dams. The pulmonary ACE concentration was not significantly different between the groups. The serum ACE concentration was significantly elevated in the offspring of Fe-restricted dams at 3 but not 14 months of age. There was a strong correlation between serum ACE levels at 3 and 14 months of age. Glucose tolerance and serum insulin were not different between the maternal diet groups. Serum triacylglycerol tended to be lower in the offspring of Fe-restricted dams. There were no differences in serum non-esterified fatty acids or serum cholesterol between the maternal diet groups. This study provides further evidence that maternal nutrition has effects on the offspring that persist throughout life. At 16 months of age, the elevation of blood pressure in Fe-restricted offspring does not appear to be mediated via changes in ACE levels. Both cardiac hypertrophy and decreased serum triacylglycerol have also been observed in Fe-restricted fetuses, suggesting that these changes may be initiated in utero.

(Received July 23 2001)

(Revised March 14 2002)

(Accepted April 24 2002)


c1 *Corresponding author:Dr Rohan M. Lewis, present address, FOAD Research Division, University of Southampton, Level F, Princess Ann Hospital, Mail point 815, Coxford Road, Southampton SO17 5YA, UK, fax +44 23 8078 6933, email