Extensive epidemiological and experimental evidence indicates that a sub-optimal environment during fetal and neonatal development in both humans and animals may programme offspring susceptibility to later development of chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes that are the result of altered carbohydrate metabolism. We determined the effects of protein restriction during pregnancy and/or lactation on growth, serum leptin, and glucose and insulin responses to a glucose tolerance test in male and female offspring at 110 days postnatal life. We fed Wistar rats a normal control 20% casein diet (C) or a restricted diet (R) of 10% casein during pregnancy. Female but not male R pups weighed less than C at birth. After delivery, mothers received the C or R diet during lactation to provide four offspring groups: CC (first letter maternal pregnancy diet and second maternal lactation diet), RR, CR and RC. All offspring were fed ad libitum with C diet after weaning. Relative food intake correlated inversely with weight. Offspring serum leptin correlated with body weight and relative, but not absolute, food intake in both male and female pups. Serum leptin was reduced in RR female pups compared with CC and increased in RC males compared with CC at 110 days of age. Offspring underwent a glucose tolerance test (GTT) at 110 days postnatal life. Female RR and CR offspring showed a lower insulin to glucose ratio than CC. At 110 days of age male RR and CR also showed some evidence of increased insulin sensitivity. Male but not female RC offspring showed evidence of insulin resistance compared with CC. Cholesterol was similar and triglycerides (TG) higher inmale compared with female CC. Cholesterol and TG were higher in males than females in RR, CR and RC (P < 0.05). Cholesterol and TG did not differ between groups in females. Cholesterol and TG were elevated in RC compared with CC males. Nutrient restriction in lactation increased relative whole protein and decreased whole lipid in both males and females. RC females showed decreased relative levels of protein and increased fat. We conclude that maternal protein restriction during either pregnancy and/or lactation alters postnatal growth, appetitive behaviour, leptin physiology, TG and cholesterol concentrations and modifies glucose metabolism and insulin resistance in a sexand time window of exposure-specific manner.
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