We have developed a sheep model to facilitate studies of the fetal programming effects of mismatched perinatal and postnatal nutrition. During the last trimester of gestation, twenty-one twin-bearing ewes were fed a normal diet fulfilling norms for energy and protein (NORM) or 50 % of a normal diet (LOW). From day 3 postpartum to 6 months (around puberty) of age, one twin lamb was fed a conventional (CONV) diet and the other a high-carbohydrate–high-fat (HCHF) diet, resulting in four groups of offspring: NORM-CONV; NORM-HCHF; LOW-CONV; LOW-HCHF. At 6 months of age, half of the lambs (all males and three females) were slaughtered for further examination and the other half (females only) were transferred to a moderate sheep diet until slaughtered at 24 months of age (adulthood). Maternal undernutrition during late gestation reduced the birth weight of LOW offspring (P < 0·05), and its long-term effects were increased adrenal size in male lambs and adult females (P < 0·05), increased neonatal appetite for fat-(P = 0·004) rather than carbohydrate-rich feeds (P < 0·001) and reduced deposition of subcutaneous fat in both sexes (P < 0·05). Furthermore, LOW-HCHF female lambs had markedly higher visceral:subcutaneous fat ratios compared with the other groups (P < 0·001). Postnatal overfeeding (HCHF) resulted in obesity (>30 % fat in soft tissue) and widespread ectopic lipid deposition. In conclusion, our sheep model revealed strong pre- and postnatal impacts on growth, food preferences and fat deposition patterns. The present findings support a role for subcutaneous adipose tissue in the development of visceral adiposity, which in humans is known to precede the development of the metabolic syndrome in human adults.
British Journal of Nutrition, 2013, Vol 109, Issue 11, p. 2098-2110
fetal and postnatal programming; growth; food preference; obesity