Human epidemiological and animal studies have revealed the late consequences of malnutrition during gestation and early life on the health of the offspring. These studies have highlighted the inverse relationship between birth weight and the incidence of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes later in life. The aim of this paper is to review the different means of achieving foetal malnutrition and its consequences even for a next generation, in animal models and to identify key area for further research. We address the impact of two models of maternal malnutrition (protein restriction and caloric restriction) as well as the impact of maternal diabetes, the three maternal conditions leading to perturbed foetal nutritional environment. Particular emphasis is given to the endocrine pancreas and the insulin sensitive tissues. More specifically, alterations of the foetal nutritional environment perturb the development of the endocrine pancreas and target the ß cell mass at birth. Some adaptations later in life may take place but stress situations such as pregnancy and ageing precipitate the animals to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Even the next generation features alterations in the development of the endocrine pancreas. Some mechanisms by which the foetal ß cell mass is altered are approached in this review and specific attention is paid to the amino acid profile. The preventive role of taurine is discussed.
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