• maternal obesity;
  • leucine;
  • glucose tolerance test;
  • lipids;
  • mammalian target of rapamycin

Previously, we showed that offspring from obese rat dams were hyperphagic, with increased adiposity, hyperlipidaemia and glucose intolerance associated with increased orexigenic neuropeptide expression after fasting. Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) can inhibit food intake through a hypothalamic action. As we previously showed that maternal obesity down-regulated hypothalamic mTOR, in the present study, we hypothesised that dietary leucine supplementation would activate hypothalamic mTOR to reduce food intake, thus limiting metabolic disorders in offspring from obese dams, regardless of postweaning diet. Obesity was induced in Sprague–Dawley females by high-fat diet (HFD) for 5 weeks before mating, throughout gestation and lactation. Male pups from HFD-fed mothers were weaned onto chow or HFD; within each dietary group, half were supplied with leucine via drinking water (1.5%) versus water control for 10 weeks. Those from chow-fed mothers were fed chow and water. Maternal obesity led to increased adiposity in chow-fed offspring. Postweaning HFD consumption exaggerated adiposity, hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinaemia and hyperlipidaemia. Supplementation with leucine doubled leucine intake and increased hypothalamic mTOR activation; however, appetite regulation was not affected. A reduction in blood lipid levels was observed in offspring regardless of diet, as well as improved glucose tolerance in HFD-fed rats. In HFD-fed rats, up-regulated carnitine palmitoyl-transferase-1 and peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α in muscle and glucose transporter 4 in fat suggested that leucine improved peripheral fat oxidation and glucose transport. Leucine is able to improve peripheral glucose and lipid metabolism independent of appetite and weight regulation, suggesting its potential application in the management of metabolic disorders.