Sex-Specific Effects of a Maternal Obesogenic Diet High in Fat and Sugar on Offspring Adiposity, Growth, and Behavior


With rising rates of human obesity, this study aimed to determine the relationship between maternal diet-induced obesity, offspring morphometrics, and behavior in mice. Pregnant and lactating female mice fed a diet high in fat and sugar (HFHS) commonly consumed by human populations showed decreased food, calorie, and protein intake but increased adiposity at the expense of lean mass. The pre-weaning body weight of the HFHS offspring was reduced for the first postnatal week but not thereafter, with HFHS female offspring having higher body weights by weaning due to continuing higher fractional growth rates. Post-weaning, there were minor differences in offspring food and protein intake. Maternal diet, however, affected fractional growth rate and total body fat content of male but not female HFHS offspring. The maternal diet did not affect the offspring's locomotor activity or social behavior in either sex. Both the male and female HFHS offspring displayed reduced anxiety-related behaviors, with sex differences in particular aspects of the elevated plus maze task. In the novel object recognition task, performance was impaired in the male but not female HFHS offspring. Collectively, the findings demonstrate that maternal obesity alters the growth, adiposity, and behavior of male and female offspring, with sex-specific differences.