Perinatal overnutrition and the programming of food preferences: Pathways and mechanisms

Z. Y. Ong, J. R. Gugusheff, B. S. Muhlhausler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


One of the major contributing factors to the continuous rise in obesity rates is the increase in caloric intake, which is driven to a large extent by the ease of access and availability of palatable high-fat, high-sugar 'junk foods'. It is also clear that some individuals are more likely to overindulge in these foods than others; however, the factors that determine an individual's susceptibility towards the overconsumption of palatable foods are not well understood. There is growing evidence that an increased preference for these foods may have its origins early in life. Recent work from our group and others has reported that in utero and early life exposure to these palatable foods in rodents increased the offspring's preference towards foods high in fat and sugar. One of the potential mechanisms underlying the programming of food preferences is the altered development of the mesolimbic reward system, a system that plays an important role in driving palatable food intake in adults. The aim of this review is to explore the current knowledge of the programming of food preferences, a relatively new and emerging area in the DOHAD field, with a particular focus on maternal overnutrition, the development of the mesolimbic reward system and the biological mechanisms which may account for the early origins of an increased preference for palatable foods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Opioid
  • Programming
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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