Individuals exposed to high-fat, high-sugar diets before birth have an increased risk of obesity in later life. Recent studies have shown that these offspring exhibit increased preference for fat, leading to suggestions that perinatal exposure to high-fat, high-sugar foods results in permanent changes within the central reward system that increase the subsequent drive to overconsume palatable foods. The present study has determined the effect of a maternal "junk-food" diet on the expression of key components of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring of rat dams at 6 wk and 3 mo of age. We show that offspring of junk-food-fed (JF) dams exhibit higher fat intake from weaning until at least 3 mo of age (males: 16±0.6 vs. 11±0.8 g/kg/d; females: 19±1.3 vs. 13±0.4 g/kg/d; P<0.01). mRNA expression of μ-opioid receptor (Mu) was 1.6-fold higher (P<0.01) and dopamine active transporter (DAT) was 2-fold lower (P<0.05) in JF offspring at 6 wk of age. By 3 mo, these differences were reversed, and Mu mRNA expression was 2.8-fold lower (P<0.01) and DAT mRNA expression was 1.9-fold higher (P<0.01) in the JF offspring. These findings suggest that perinatal exposure to high-fat, highsugar diets results in altered development of the central reward system, resulting in increased fat intake and altered response of the reward system to excessive junk-food intake in postnatal life.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology