Indexed on: 25 May '11Published on: 25 May '11Published in: Physiology & Behavior
Chronic variable prenatal stress or maternal high-fat diet results in offspring that are significantly heavier by the end of the first postnatal week with increased adiposity by weaning. It is unclear, however, what role maternal care and diet play in the ontogenesis of this phenotype and what contributions come from differences already established in the rat pups. In the present studies, we examined maternal behavior and milk composition as well as offspring ingestive behavior. Our aim was to better understand the development of the obese phenotype in offspring from dams subjected to prenatal stress and/or fed a high-fat (HF) diet during gestation and lactation. We found that dams maintained on a HF diet through gestation and lactation spent significantly more time nursing their pups during the first postnatal week. In addition, offspring of prenatal stress dams consumed more milk at postnatal day (PND) 3 and offspring of HF dams consume more milk on PND 7 in an independent ingestion test. Milk from HF dams showed a significant increase in fat content from PND 10-21. Together these results suggest that gestational dietary or stress manipulations can alter the rat offspring's developmental environment, evidence of which is apparent by PND 3. Alterations in maternal care, milk composition, and pup consumption during the early postnatal period may contribute to long-term changes in body weight and adiposity induced by maternal prenatal stress or high-fat diet.