Researchers Susan E. Ozanne and C. Nicholas Hales at Cambridge university found that female mice fed a low-protein diet had low birth-weight babies. But efforts to make up the babies' weight difference later by feeding a high-energy diet reduced the life span of the young mice.
In a brief article in this week's Nature (427, 411-412), the researchers describe their investigations on lifespan of male mice and whether it is affected by their growth rate when suckling.
They report that limiting growth during this period not only increases longevity but also protects against the life-shortening effect of an obesity-inducing diet later on.
'By contrast, we find that lifespan is considerably shortened if the postnatal period of growth is accelerated to make up for reduced growth in utero, and that, in addition, these mice are susceptible to the adverse effects on longevity of an obesity-inducing diet after weaning,' they added.
Their findings shed more light on the current obesity debate, suggesting that if a baby is poorly nourished in the uterus - he or she could be more susceptible to the detrimental effects of an 'obesity' style diet.
The findings appear to back evidence from an animal study out last year. An internation team foudn that even modest restrictions in maternal nutrition around the time of conception can lead to premature births and long-term adverse health effects for offspring.