There is growing evidence that prenatal adversities could be implicated in foetal programming of adult chronic diseases. Since maternal stress is known to disturb the foetal glucocorticoid environment, we examined the consequences of prenatal stress on foetal growth, on glucose-insulin metabolism and on feeding behaviour in the aged male rat. In foetuses at term, maternal stress reduced body, adrenal and pancreas weight as well as plasma corticosterone and glucose levels. In aged male rats (24 months of age), prenatal stress induced hyperglycaemia and glucose intolerance and decreased basal leptin levels. Moreover, after a fasting period, they showed an increased food intake. These data suggest that maternal stress induces a long-lasting disturbance in feeding behaviour and dysfunctions related to type 2 diabetes mellitus. This programming could be linked to the early restricted foetal growth and to the adverse glucocorticoid environment in utero.
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