Background and significance
Excessive sucrose consumption can increase the risk of weight gain and metabolic disease, while maternal diet quality can alter the metabolic profile of offspring. This study examined (a) the metabolic effects of 10% sucrose solution in female rats from pre-pregnancy to offspring delivery, and (b) the effects of maternal sucrose consumption on offspring metabolic health when combined with sucrose exposure and regular exercise.
Female adult albino Wistar (AAW) rats had unrestricted access to 10% sucrose solution, chow and water (Sucrose group) or chow and water only (Control group) for 4 weeks. This diet manipulation continued through 1 week of mating and the subsequent 3 weeks of gestation. At parturition, offspring were reduced to litters of 8 (5:3♂:♀) and were fed chow and water with no intervention for 7-wk. Physical activity and glucose tolerance were then assessed in male and female offspring from Sucrose and Control mothers (Cohort 1). A separate group (Cohort 2) of male offspring received unrestricted access to 10% sucrose solution for 7-wk, with or without moderate exercise (wheel running) for 2-h on alternate days.
During the diet manipulation, sucrose-fed females gained more weight, became glucose intolerant, and showed elevated blood triglyceride levels. No effect of maternal status was observed on offspring body weight, glucose tolerance or activity levels in Cohort 1. In Cohort 2, exercise inhibited weight gain during sucrose exposure, and interacted with maternal status to reduce retroperitoneal fat, fasting insulin and glucose only in offspring of sucrose-fed mothers.
The sugar diet had significant effects on mothers’ health status but only limited impact on their offspring. While combined high-fat, high-sugar maternal diets often yield direct intergenerational effects, our results suggest that effects of maternal sucrose feeding on offspring may be revealed only when diet and exercise are manipulated.