Maternal Western-style diet reduces social engagement and increases idiosyncratic behavior in Japanese macaque offspring

A. J. Mitchell, Seva G. Khambadkone, Geoffrey Dunn, Jennifer Bagley, Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Damien Fair, Hanna Gustafsson, Elinor L. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Recent evidence in humans and animals indicates an association between maternal obesity and offspring behavioral outcomes. In humans, increased maternal body mass index has been linked to an increased risk of children receiving a diagnosis of early-emerging neurodevelopmental disorders such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, a limited number of preclinical studies have examined associations between maternal Western-Style Diet (mWSD) exposure and offspring social behavior. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate relationships between mWSD exposure and social behavior in non-human primates. Since aberrant social behavior is a diagnostic criterion for several neurodevelopmental disorders, the current study focuses on examining the influence of maternal nutrition and metabolic state on offspring social behavior in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). We found that mWSD offspring initiated less affiliative social behaviors as well as proximity to a peer. Using path analysis, we found that the association between mWSD consumption and reduced offspring social engagement was statistically mediated by increased maternal interleukin (IL)-12 during the third trimester of pregnancy. Additionally, mWSD offspring displayed increased idiosyncratic behavior, which was related to alterations in maternal adiposity and leptin in the third trimester. Together, these results suggest that NHP offspring exposed to mWSD exhibit behavioral phenotypes similar to what is described in some early-emerging neurodevelopmental disorders. These results provide evidence that mWSD exposure during gestation may be linked to increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders and provides targets for prevention and intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors do not report any conflicts of interest with this study. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants R01MH107508 (ELS), R01MH117177 (ELS), F30 HD093338 (SGK), and P51 OD011092-61.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Developmental programming
  • Inflammation
  • Maternal diet
  • Maternal obesity
  • Neurodevelopment


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