Hypoxia-Induced Intrauterine Growth Restriction Increases the Susceptibility of Rats to High-Fat Diet–Induced Metabolic Syndrome

  1. Sandra T. Davidge1,2,3,4,7
  1. 1Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  2. 2Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  3. 3Cardiovascular Research Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  4. 4Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  5. 5Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  6. 6Alberta Diabetes Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  7. 7Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  8. 8Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  1. Corresponding authors: Sandra T. Davidge, sandra.davidge{at}ualberta.ca, and Jason R.B. Dyck, jason.dyck{at}ualberta.ca.
  1. C.F.R.-C. and V.W.D. contributed equally to this work.


OBJECTIVE It is recognized that there is a remarkable variability in the systemic response to high-fat (HF) diets that cannot be completely explained by genetic factors. In addition, pregnancy complications leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) have been associated with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MetS) later in life. Thus, we hypothesized that offspring born with IUGR exhibit permanent metabolic changes that make them more susceptible to HF diet–induced MetS.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS SD rats born normal (control) or with hypoxia-induced IUGR were randomized to low-fat (10% fat) or HF (45% fat) diets. After 9 weeks of feeding, physiological and molecular pathways involved in the MetS were evaluated.

RESULTS IUGR offspring exhibited decreased energy intake and physical activity relative to controls. In offspring fed a HF diet, IUGR was associated with decreased total body fat content, a relative increase in intra-abdominal fat deposition and adipocyte size, an increase in fasting plasma concentrations of leptin, triglyceride and free fatty acids, and an increased concentration of triglycerides and ceramides in both liver and skeletal muscle. These changes in lipid homeostasis were accompanied by in vivo insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance and associated with increased phosphorylation of protein kinase C θ, inhibition of insulin receptor substrate 1, and a decreased activation of protein kinase B (PKB; also known as Akt) in liver and skeletal muscle in response to insulin.

CONCLUSIONS IUGR enhances specific deleterious metabolic responses to a HF diet. Our results suggest that offspring born with IUGR may require special attention and follow-up to prevent the early onset of MetS.


  • Received September 4, 2010.
  • Accepted November 23, 2010.

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