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What babies eat after birth likely determines lifetime risk of obesity, rat study suggests
Date:8/30/2012

Rats born to mothers fed high-fat diets but who get normal levels of fat in their diets right after birth avoid obesity and its related disorders as adults, according to new Johns Hopkins research.

Meanwhile, rat babies exposed to a normal-fat diet in the womb but nursed by rat mothers on high-fat diets become obese by the time they are weaned.

The experiments suggest that what mammalian babies including humans get to eat as newborns and young children may be more important to their metabolic future than exposure to unhealthy nutrition in the womb, the Hopkins scientists say.

"Our research confirms that exposure to a high-fat diet right after birth has significant consequences for obesity," says Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published online in the journal Diabetes. "But it also suggests that by putting children on a healthy diet in infancy and early childhood, we can intervene and potentially prevent a future of obesity, diabetes and heart disease."

Obesity has become a worldwide public health problem that often leads to many other disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and arthritis. A significant concern in Western society is the consumption of modern diets high in fat: Rates of obesity are skyrocketing, costing the health care system billions and reducing longevity.

In the Johns Hopkins experiments, newborn baby rats exposed to a high-fat diet through the breast milk of rat mothers fed high amounts of fat were more likely to gain excessive weight, have impaired tolerance to glucose (a sign of prediabetes) and become insensitive to the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite and body weight in humans and rodents and can be disrupted in obese mammals. Leptin, secreted by fat cells, signals how much fat is around and control
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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