The prevalence of obesity has steadily increased over the last few decades. During this time, populations of industrialized countries have been exposed to diets rich in fat with a high content of linoleic acid and a low content of alpha-linolenic acid compared with recommended intake.

To assess the contribution of dietary fatty acids, male and female mice fed a high-fat diet (35% energy as fat, linoleic acid:alpha-linolenic acid ratio of 28) were mated randomly and maintained after breeding on the same diet for successive generations. Offspring showed, over four generations, a gradual enhancement in fat mass due to combined hyperplasia and hypertrophy with no change in food intake.

Transgenerational alterations in adipokine levels were accompanied by hyperinsulinemia. Gene expression analyses of the stromal vascular fraction of adipose tissue, over generations, revealed discrete and steady changes in certain important players, such as CSF3 and Nocturnin.

Thus, under conditions of genome stability and with no change in the regimen over four generations, we show that a Western-like fat diet induces a gradual fat mass enhancement, in accordance with the increasing prevalence of obesity observed in humans.