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The prenatal diet can program an individual's cardiovascular system towards later higher resting blood pressure and kidney dysfunction, but the extent to which these programmed responses are directly determined by the timing of maternal nutritional manipulation is unknown. In the present study we examined whether maternal nutrient restriction targeted over the period of maximal placental growth, i.e. days 28–80 of gestation, resulted in altered blood pressure or kidney development in the juvenile offspring. This was undertaken in 6-month-old sheep born to mothers fed control (100–150 % of the recommended metabolisable energy (ME) intake for that stage of gestation) or nutrient-restricted (NR; 50 % ME; n 6) diets between days 28 and 80 of gestation. Controls were additionally grouped according to normal (>3, n 7) or low body condition score (LBCS; <2, n 6), thereby enabling us to examine the effect of maternal body composition on later cardiovascular function. From day 80 to term (approximately 147 d) all sheep were fed to 100 % ME. Offspring were weaned at 12 weeks and pasture-reared until 6 months of age when cardiovascular function was determined. Both LBCS and NR sheep tended to have lower resting systolic (control, 85 (SE 2); LBCS, 77 (SE 3); NR, 77 (SE 3) mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure relative to controls. Total nephron count was markedly lower in both LBCS and NR relative to controls (LBCS, 59 (SE 6); NR, 56 (SE 12) %). Our data suggest that maternal body composition around conception is as important as the level of nutrient intake during early pregnancy in programming later cardiovascular health.
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