Lambs Provide Link in Understanding Obesity

lambs obesityNew research examining the hormones of lambs born to overweight sheep shed some light on whether human children born to obese mothers will become obese themselves. In this study, lambs present a better model than rodents because they are born at a more advanced level of maturity — equivalent to humans.  The study was conducted by feeding sheep either a normal diet or one that creates obesity for 60 days before conception and throughout their pregnancy.  The appetite and weight gain of their offspring were monitored for 19 months, the results were recently published in the Journal of Physiology.

Through frequently taking blood samples from the offspring, the research team at the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research, University of Texas and the University of Wyoming , discovered that in lambs born of normal weight mothers, there was a peak in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in the sixth to ninth days of life.  This peak did not occur in lambs born to obese sheep. The researchers conclude that the peak in leptin plays a key role in the development of areas of the brain that regulate appetite.  An absence of this peak in lambs born to obese mothers seems to predispose them to increased appetite and obesity in later life.

Additionally, blood samples taken from one day old lambs found that cortisol levels were up to 50% higher in obese sheep, indicating that exposure to higher levels of cortisol in the womb may prevent the normal leptin rise in lambs of obese mothers. The researchers conclude that seeing these hormonal changes in lambs bring us a step closer to understanding the mechanics behind appetite and obesity in humans.

Read ScienceDaily’s article here.

Comments are closed.