Short Term Changes in Dietary Fat Content and Metformin Treatment During Lactation Impact Milk Composition and Mammary Gland Morphology

Zach Carlson, Hannah Hafner, Noura El Habbal, Emma Harman, Stephanie Liu, Nathalie Botezatu, Masa Alharastani, Cecelia Rivet, Holly Reynolds, Nyahon Both, Haijing Sun, and Brigid Gregg

Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia 2022. 27: 1-18.


Maternal health and diet can have important consequences for offspring nutrition and metabolic health. During lactation, signals are communicated from the mother to the infant through milk via macronutrients, hormones, and bioactive molecules. In this study we designed experiments to probe the mother-milk-infant triad in the condition of normal maternal health and upon exposure to high fat diet (HFD) with or without concurrent metformin exposure. We examined maternal characteristics, milk composition and offspring metabolic parameters on postnatal day 16, prior to offspring weaning. We found that lactational HFD increased maternal adipose tissue weight, mammary gland adipocyte size, and altered milk lipid composition causing a higher amount of omega-6 (n6) long chain fatty acids and lower omega-3 (n3). Offspring of HFD dams were heavier with more body fat during suckling. Metformin (Met) exposure decreased maternal blood glucose and several milk amino acids. Offspring of met dams were smaller during suckling. Gene expression in the lactating mammary glands was impacted to a greater extent by metformin than HFD, but both metformin and HFD altered genes related to muscle contraction, indicating that these genes may be more susceptible to lactational stressors. Our study demonstrates the impact of common maternal exposures during lactation on milk composition, mammary gland function and offspring growth with metformin having little capacity to rescue the offspring from the effects of a maternal HFD during lactation.


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