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The World in Medicine
July 20, 2005

Early Obesity Trigger?

JAMA. 2005;294(3):297. doi:10.1001/jama.294.3.297-c

Babies born to malnourished women are more likely to become obese and develop problems such as diabetes later in life. Now, Japanese scientists report that research in mice points to a possible link between poor nutrition during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity in the offspring: a premature surge of leptin, a hormone that normally helps regulate metabolism by triggering the sensation of being full (Yura et al. Cell Metabolism. 2005;1:371-378).

In the study, mice born to underfed mothers were small at birth but grew quickly and caught up with control mice after 10 days. When fed a high-fat diet, the prenatally undernourished mice gained weight faster and also experienced a surge in blood leptin a week earlier than the control animals. However, when mice born to normally fed mothers were given an injection of leptin 5 to 10 days after birth (to mimic the premature leptin surge), they too were prone to obesity when fed a high-fat diet.

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