Childhood obesity is associated with increased risk of behavioral/ psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, poor learning, and attention deficient disorder. As the majority of women of child-bearing age are overweight or obese and consume a diet high in dietary fat, it is critical to examine the consequences of maternal overnutrition on the development of brain circuitry that regulates offspring behavior. Using a nonhuman primate model of diet-induced obesity, we found that maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption caused perturbations in the central serotonergic system of fetal offspring. In addition, female infants from HFD-fed mothers exhibited increased anxiety in response to threatening novel objects. These findings have important clinical implications as they demonstrate that exposure to maternal HFD consumption during gestation, independent of obesity, increases the risk of developing behavioral disorders such as anxiety.
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