The prevalence of maternal obesity is increasing in the United States. Offspring born to women with obesity or poor glycemic control have greater odds of becoming obese and developing metabolic disease later in life. Our group has utilized a macaque model to study the metabolic effects of consumption of a calorically-dense, Western-style diet (WSD; 36.3% fat) during pregnancy. Here, our objective was to characterize the effects of WSD and obesity, alone and together, on maternal glucose tolerance and insulin levels in dams during each pregnancy. Recognizing the collinearity of maternal measures, we adjusted for confounding factors including maternal age and parity. Based on intravenous glucose tolerance tests, dams consuming a WSD showed lower glucose area under the curve during first study pregnancies despite increased body fat percentage and increased insulin area under the curve. However, with (1) prolonged WSD feeding, (2) multiple diet switches, and/or (3) increasing age and parity, WSD was associated with increasingly higher insulin levels during glucose tolerance testing, indicative of insulin resistance. Our results suggest that prolonged or recurrent calorically-dense WSD and/or increased parity, rather than obesity per se, drive excess insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. These observations in a highly relevant species are likely of clinical and public health importance given the comparative ease of maternal dietary modifications relative to the low likelihood of successfully reversing obesity in the course of any given pregnancy.
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