Background: Maternal high fat diet (HFD) exposure is thought to perturb offspring metabolism, however the literature on experimental animal studies is inconsistent.
Objectives: (i) In experimental studies, appraise data regarding metabolic parameters in offspring of mothers who consumed a HFD, (ii) assess possible predictors for these, and (iii) explore the quality of the evidence base.
Methods: Searches were performed in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, CAB, SCOPUS and Web of Science) in July 2015. Eligible papers investigated offspring outcomes following maternal HFD exposure in animals. After removal of duplicates, 1848 abstracts were screened. 171 papers met the inclusion criteria and were included for meta-analysis, providing a total of 6047 offspring. Meta-regression was based on predefined factors: macronutrient content of diet, species, strain, whether lactational exposure, and gestational weight gain. Eggers regression test was used to identify publication bias. Results. Maternal exposure to HFD resulted in increased wean weight, final body weight, adiposity, hypertriglyceridaemia, hypercholesterolaemia and hyperinsulinaemia in both female and male offspring. Hyperglycaemia was found in female offspring only. No effect was found on birth weight. Meta-regression analysis identified exposure during lactation as a key moderator. Carbohydrate content of the diet was predictive of male wean weight. Use of randomisation and taking account of litters in experimental design reduced the effect sizes found. There was significant evidence for publication bias.
Conclusions: A comprehensive analysis of models of maternal HFD exposure demonstrates perturbed metabolism in offspring. This is influenced by lactational exposure, sex of offspring and dietary macronutrients. This analysis goes some way towards explaining some of the inconsistencies in the literature and identifies several factors that should be taken into account in future study design. It also adds to the growing body of experimental and epidemiological evidence that the early life environment programs future health.