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.
Stephenson J. Early Obesity Trigger?. JAMA. 2005;294(3):297. doi:10.1001/jama.294.3.297-c