"We know that a range of maternal factors including diet can influence foetal development, but this is the first study to examine changes in the expression of taste receptors in the heart," said Margaret Morris, head of pharmacology, University of New South Wales.
The study examined the effect of a fatty maternal diet on receptors in the hearts of newborn rats, including those which detect certain flavours.
Baby rats whose mothers were fed a high-fat diet had larger than normal hearts with fewer taste receptors for bitter flavours, found the study.
"This may be an important finding linking taste preferences or nutrient availability and cardiovascular health," Morris said out in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
The team found fewer bitter taste receptors on the hearts of 19-day-old rats with obese mothers.
The offspring of obese rats also had larger hearts with fewer angiotensin II and beta-adrenoreceptors which are important in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiac activity.
This suggested their cardiovascular systems were overactive.
Previous studies have shown a link between chronic overeating and the fight-or-flight nervous system response.