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Research Project: Developmental Determinants of Obesity in Infants and Children

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Developmental programming of energy balance regulation: Is physical activity more "programmable" than food intake

item ZHU, SHAOYU - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item ECLARINAL, JESSE - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item BAKER, MARIA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item LI, GI - Cornell University - New York

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/29/2015
Publication Date: 2/1/2016
Citation: Zhu, S., Eclarinal, J., Baker, M.S., Li, G. 2016. Developmental programming of energy balance regulation: Is physical activity more "programmable" than food intake. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 75(1):73-77.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Extensive human and animal model data show that environmental influences during critical periods of prenatal and early postnatal development can cause persistent alterations in energy balance regulation. Although a potentially important factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic, the fundamental mechanisms underlying such developmental programming of energy balance are poorly understood, limiting our ability to intervene. Most studies of developmental programming of energy balance have focused on persistent alterations in the regulation of energy intake; energy expenditure has been relatively underemphasised. In particular, very few studies have evaluated developmental programming of physical activity. The aim of this review is to summarise recent evidence that early environment may have a profound impact on establishment of individual propensity for physical activity. Recently, we characterised two different mouse models of developmental programming of obesity; one models fetal growth restriction followed by catch-up growth, and the other models early postnatal overnutrition. In both studies, we observed alterations in body-weight regulation that persisted to adulthood, but no group differences in food intake. Rather, in both cases, programming of energy balance appeared to be due to persistent alterations in energy expenditure and spontaneous physical activity (SPA). These effects were stronger in female offspring. We are currently exploring the hypothesis that developmental programming of SPA occurs via induced sex-specific alterations in epigenetic regulation in the hypothalamus and other regions of the central nervous system. We will summarise the current progress towards testing this hypothesis. Early environmental influences on establishment of physical activity are likely an important factor in developmental programming of energy balance. Understanding the fundamental underlying mechanisms in appropriate animal models will help determine whether early life interventions may be a practical approach to promote physical activity in man.