Fetal brain and placental programming in maternal obesity: A review of human and animal model studies

Shook L. L. , Kislal S., Edlow A. G.

PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS, vol.40, no.9, pp.1126-1137, 2020 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 40 Issue: 9
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1002/pd.5724
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus, Agricultural & Environmental Science Database, CAB Abstracts, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.1126-1137


Both human epidemiologic and animal model studies demonstrate that prenatal and lactational exposure to maternal obesity and high-fat diet are associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring. Neurodevelopmental outcomes described in offspring of obese women include cognitive impairment, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, disordered eating, and propensity for reward-driven behavior, among others. This review synthesizes human and animal data linking maternal obesity and high-fat diet consumption to abnormal fetal brain development, and neurodevelopmental and psychiatric morbidity in offspring. It highlights key mechanisms by which maternal obesity and maternal diet impact fetal and offspring development, and sex differences in offspring programming. In addition, we review placental effects of maternal obesity, and the role the placenta might play as an indicator vs mediator of fetal programming.