Mechanisms underlying modern increases in prevalence of human inflammatory diseases remain unclear. The hygiene hypothesis postulates that decreased microbial exposure has, in part, driven this immune dysregulation. However, dietary fatty acids also influence immunity, partially through modulation of responses to microbes.

Prior reports have described the direct effects of high-fat diets on the gut microbiome and inflammation, and some have additionally shown metabolic consequences for offspring.

Our study sought to expand on these previous observations to identify the effects of parental diet on offspring immunity using mouse models to provide insights into challenging aspects of human health.

To test the hypothesis that parental dietary fat consumption during gestation and lactation influences offspring immunity, we compared pups of mice fed either a Western diet (WD) fatty acid profile or a standard low-fat diet. All pups were weaned onto the control diet to specifically test the effects of early developmental fat exposure on immune development.

Pups from WD breeders were not obese or diabetic, but still had worse outcomes in models of infection, autoimmunity, and allergic sensitization. They had heightened colonic inflammatory responses, with increased circulating bacterial LPS and muted systemic LPS responsiveness. These deleterious impacts of the WD were associated with alterations of the offspring gut microbiome.

These results indicate that parental fat consumption can leave a "lard legacy" impacting offspring immunity and suggest inheritable microbiota may contribute to the modern patterns of human health and disease.

PMID: 23935191

See following website for full manuscript.