Programming is an epigenetic phenomena by which nutritional, hormonal, physical psychological and other stressful events acting in a critical period of life, such as gestation and lactation, modifies in a prolonged way certain physiological functions. This process was preserved by natural selection as an important adaptive tool for survival of organisms living in nutritional impaired areas. So, malnutrition during gestation and lactation turns on different genes that provide the organism with a thrifty phenotype. In the case of an abundant supply of nutrients after this period, those organisms that were adapted to a low metabolic waste and higher energy utilization will be in a higher risk of developing metabolic diseases, such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. The kind of malnutrition, duration and intensity are important for the type of programming obtained. We discuss some of the hormonal and metabolic changes that occur in gestation or lactation, when malnutrition is applied to the mothers and their offspring. Some of these changes, such as an increase of maternal triiodothyronine (T3), leptin and glucocorticoids (GC) and decrease in prolactin are by itself potential programming factors. Most of these hormones can be transfer through the milk that has other important macronutrients composition changes in malnourished dams. We discuss the programming effects of some of these hormones upon body weight and composition, leptin, thyroid and adrenal functions, and their effects on liver, muscle and adipose tissue metabolism and the consequences on thermogenesis.

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