1. Recent studies have revealed a link between fetal and early post-natal growth retardation and the development of features of the insulin resistance syndrome in later life. Obesity is also a strong risk factor for this syndrome. The aim of this study was to assess whether maternal and early protein restriction, which causes growth retardation, and obesity are risk factors that are independent for the development of certain features of the insulin resistance syndrome, especially hypertension.
2. Pregnant Sprague—Dawley rats were given either 20% or 8% protein isocaloric diets throughout pregnancy and lactation. Female offspring were weaned onto the same diets as their mothers and they remained on these diets until 70 days of age. Half the rats were then given standard laboratory chow, whilst the remainder were fed a highly palatable cafeteria-style diet. Rats were maintained on these diets for the remainder of the study.
3. Rats given the 8% protein diet remained physically lighter than comparable animals fed the 20% protein diet throughout the study. In contrast, cafeteria-fed rats showed excessive weight gain. At 1 year of age the rats had their systolic blood pressures and fasting lipids measured, as well as undergoing an intraperitoneal glucose-tolerance test.
4. Cafeteria-fed rats had worse glucose tolerances than controls and hypertriacylglycerolaemia. The early 8% protein rats had significantly increased blood pressures, as did the cafeteria-fed rats. These increases were additive, suggesting that early protein restriction, and later obesity, are indeed independent risk factors for the development of hypertension.