Early exposure to phytosterols protects offspring from hypercholesterolemia induced by maternal cholesterol feeding in Syrian golden hamsters
Pronounced maternal hyperlipidemia during pregnancy is a high priority health concern as it produces offspring who are predisposed to dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease risk. As the use of lipid-lowering drugs during pregnancy is contraindicated, lipid-lowering compounds such as phytosterols (PS), plant-based cholesterol-lowering agents, should be examined as a potential means to reduce gestational dyslipidemia. We evaluated in utero and postnatal phytosterol exposure as a novel strategy to protect against hyperlipidemia in offspring. Female Syrian golden hamsters were randomly assigned to three diets throughout pre-pregnancy (2 weeks), gestation, and lactation (n=6/group): (i) Chow only (Chow), (ii) chow with 0.5% cholesterol (CH), and (iii) chow with 0.5% cholesterol and 2% PS (CH/PS). Compared with 21 day-old pups from CHW-fed dams, age-matched pups from dams fed the cholesterol-enriched diet displayed increases ( p <0.05) in total-C (+68%), non-HDL-C (+123%), LDL-C (+154%), HDL-C (+30%), total LDL particle number (+216%), and VLDL particle number (+254%). Pups from PS-supplemented dams were largely protected against this enhanced lipid response with reductions ( p <0.05) in total-C (-26%), non-HDL-C (-32%), LDL-C (-29%), and HDL-C (-19%) compared with the CH diet. However, serum triglycerides were increased (+62%, p=0.05) in pups from PS-fed mothers compared with pups from cholesterol-supplemented dams. Results suggest that maternal PS supplementation is effective in ameliorating hypercholesterolemia in pups born to mothers with diet-induced dyslipidemia. However, the implication of increased serum TG in pups from PS-fed mothers needs further investigation to determine if this response causes permanent adaptations in TG metabolism in adulthood.