Substantial evidence suggests that poor intrauterine milieu elicited by maternal nutritional disturbance may programme susceptibility in the fetus to later development of chronic diseases, such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. One of the most interesting features of fetal programming is the evidence from several studies that the consequences may not be limited to the first-generation offspring and that it can be passed transgenerationally. In the present study, female rats (F0) were fed either a normal-protein diet [control diet (C); 19 g of protein/100 g of diet] or a low-protein diet [restricted diet (R); 5 g of protein/100 g of diet]. The offspring were termed according to the period and the types of diet the dams were fed, i.e. CC, RC, CR and RR (first letter indicates the diet during gestation and the second the diet during lactation). At 3 months of age, F1 females were bred to proven males, outside the experiment, to produce F2 offspring. At weaning, F2 offspring were divided by gender. RC1 offspring (with the number indicating the filial generation) were born with low birthweight, but afterwards they had catch-up growth, reaching the weight of the CC1 offspring. The increased glycaemia in RC1 offspring was associated with insulin resistance. CR1 and RR1 offspring had impaired growth with no changes in glucose metabolism. RC2 offspring had high BM (body mass) at birth, which was sustained over the whole experiment in male offspring. The F2 generation had more alteration in glucose metabolism than the F1 generation. CR2 and RC2 offspring had hyperglycaemia accompanied by hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance in both genders. CR2 offspring had an increase in body adiposity with hyperleptinaemia. In conclusion, low protein during gestation improves BM, fat mass and growth rate in F1 rats, but has adverse effects on glucose and leptin metabolism, resulting in insulin resistance in adult F1 and F2 offspring. Low protein during lactation has adverse effects on glucose, insulin and leptin metabolism, resulting in insulin resistance in adult F2 offspring. These findings suggest that low protein during gestation and/or lactation can be passed transgenerationally to the second generation.

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