The effects of feeding rats diets deficient in folic acid and related methyl donors on the blood pressure and glucose tolerance of the offspring

Christopher A Maloney, Susan M Hay, William D Rees

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In humans poor maternal folate status is associated with a decrease in infant birth weight. As low birth weight increases the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in adults, tin inadequate supply of folic acid in the mother's diet may increase the susceptibility of the offspring to disease. We have fed laboratory rats diets deficient in folic acid and the related methyl donors methionine and choline to examine the effects on growth, blood pressure and insulin action in the offspring. Poor folate status transiently increased fetal growth but did not produce a long-term change in body weight. There were, however, small changes in the hearts of the female offspring. When folate deficiency was combined with low intakes of methionine and choline, the kidneys of the male offspring were proportionately smaller, probably because of the limited availability of methionine. There was no effect oil the blood pressure of either the male or female offspring. The pancreatic insulin content of fetuses from animals fed the folate-deficient diets were higher than those of the controls. Following all oral glucose challenge, there was a weak trend for glucose-stimulated insulin release to be increased in the offspring of dams fed the folate-deficient diet. The changes in insulin concentrations were, however, much smaller than the corresponding changes observed in the offspring of animals fed protein-deficient diets. These results suggest that folate deficiency during gestation causes modest changes to the insulin axis of the fetus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1340
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number9
Early online date10 Sep 2008
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2009


  • methionine
  • choline
  • developmental origins of disease
  • methylation
  • low-protein diet
  • maternal diet
  • insulin axis
  • birth-weight
  • pregnant rat
  • folate
  • growth
  • supplementation
  • restriction
  • metabolism

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