A direct connection has been proposed between body size and sexual maturation by the critical body weight and critical body fat hypotheses. To test these theories in male rats, we compared the degree of sexual maturation in animals with reduced growth rate due to undernutrition with that in weightmatched but normally fed rats. Underfed rats had significantly larger prostate, seminal vesicle, and testis weights than the weight-matched normally fed controls at the three time points studied: the early pubertal period (approximate time of onset of rising serum testosterone), late pubertal period (approximate time of appearance of mature spermatids), and young adult period. At the first time point, testes of underfed rats, but not those of normally fed, weight-matched controls, showed mature step 19 spermatids, and serum testosterone was significantly higher in the underfed animals. At all time points, serum LH levels were similar in both groups, while serum FSH levels were significantly lower in the underfed rats at all points. The Lee index, an index of fatness, was significantly lower in the underfed rats. The current study indicates that underfed rats are more sexually mature than normally fed controls of the same weight despite having a lower percentage of body fat. These findings do not support the critical body weight or critical body fat hypotheses of puberty in male rats.
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