Scientists working at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio as well as the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have found that weaning baby marmosets early led to life-long metabolic problems and obesity. This study could help formulate a link in human children that will determine what environmental factors contribute to childhood obesity, and the development of poor eating habits and metabolic issues in later life.
Marmosets that were put on solid foods earlier were much more likely to become obese than those that remained on a liquid diet until later. Researchers at both institutions find this to be indicative of the behavior of many of the higher primates, including humans.
The fast growth cycle of marmosets made them ideal candidates for determining the cycle of obesity in a short time frame. At 30 days old, a marmoset is tantamount to a 5-to 8-month-old human child. When they reach 6 months, their body is similar to that of a prepubescent child.
Using this accelerated parallel, the researchers were able to see how the behavior of a 5-month-old would affect them later in childhood.
The results were similar across the board.
“With its small size and early maturation, we think the marmoset is going to be an exceptionally good model of early life obesity and offers many opportunities to further explore why youngsters become obese and what interventions may work to counteract early life obesity,” said senior author Suzette D. Tardif, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular and structural biology in the School of Medicine.
Insulin resistance and blood sugar control were the most common issues affecting marmosets that were weaned early.
Studies are ongoing in San Antonio to ascertain whether or not this information could aid in preventing childhood obesity, as well as life-long eating issues and health problems in humans. The belief is that since young marmosets closely resemble young humans from a metabolic standpoint, following their example could lead to breakthroughs in human conditioning and parenting practices.
Similar studies have also found links between overfeeding of newborn mice and long-term obesity.