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. 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, the researchers, investigating whether the lifespan of male mice is affected by their growth rate when suckling, found 'that limiting growth during that 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 brief communication, Lifespan: Catch-Up Growth And Obesity In Male Mice by Susan E. Ozanne and C. Nicholas Hales is published in this weeks Nature (2004) 427, 411-412.