The link between maternal obesity and offspring neurobehavior: A systematic review of animal experiments

Malou D. Menting, Cornelieke van de Beek, Stijn Mintjens, Kimberley E. Wever, Aniko Korosi, Susan E. Ozanne, Jacqueline Limpens, Tessa J. Roseboom, Carlijn Hooijmans, Rebecca C. Painter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Maternal obesity in pregnancy is associated with neurobehavioral problems in the offspring. Establishing causality has been challenging in existing human studies, due to confounding by genetic and postnatal environment. Animal experiments can improve our understanding of this association. This systematic review examined the effects of maternal obesity in pregnancy on offspring neurobehavior in animal models. We included 26 studies (1047 offspring animals). Meta-analyses showed that offspring of obese mothers displayed higher levels of locomotor activity (standardized mean difference (SMD) 0.34 [0.10; 0.58]) and anxiety behavior (SMD 0.47 [0.16; 0.79]) than offspring of lean mothers, but similar memory abilities (SMD −0.06 [−0.52; 0.39]). Meta-analysis of learning abilities was not sensible due to heterogeneity. Although the evidence was heterogeneous and the quality of the included studies generally unclear, this systematic review of animal studies indicates an effect of maternal obesity on increased offspring locomotor activity and anxiety, but not on offspring memory performance. These findings may be important from a public health perspective since obesity is rapidly increasing worldwide, and warrant further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-121
Number of pages15
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Cite this