SYDNEY, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Australian researchers say they have highlighted a link between childhood obesity and a mother's diet before and during pregnancy.
University of New South Wales researchers say the animal study shows that overweight expectant mothers are more likely to have babies with more body fat, who are at greater risk of diabetes and lipid metabolic disorders later in life.
The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, shows pups from obese mother rats that were fed more milk are almost twice as heavy as those born to lean mothers with regular milk consumption at weaning age.
The diet used to feed the mother rats is designed to approximate a western diet -- high fat content, palatable, with a lot of variety.
The study found that the mother rats ate more than double the calories of the control group.
"Maternal obesity and overfeeding early on in life caused significant changes in the chemicals that regulate appetite, which may suggest that the babies were programmed to eat differently from those born from lean mothers," the researchers say in a statement. "As brain control of appetite is likely set early in life, nutrient availability in the fetal or early post-natal period may contribute to adult obesity."