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Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2009 Jul;37(1):23-9. doi: 10.1016/j.domaniend.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Mar 28.

Insulin sensitivity and glucose dynamics during pre-weaning foal development and in response to maternal diet composition.

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Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0306, USA.


Nutritional management of animals during pregnancy can affect glucose and insulin dynamics in the resulting offspring through influences on fetal development. Additionally, high starch feeding in mature horses is associated with reduced insulin sensitivity and an increased risk for diseases such as obesity and laminitis. However, no study has yet evaluated the effect of feeding a high starch diet to pregnant mares on glucose and insulin dynamics in their offspring. Twenty late-gestation mares maintained on pasture were provided two-thirds of digestible energy requirements from isocaloric, isonitrogenous low starch (LS, n=10) or high starch (HS, n=10) feed. Their foals were assessed with an insulin-modified frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test at 5, 40, 80, and 160 d of age. Baseline glucose concentrations, insulin sensitivity, and insulin-independent glucose clearance in 5-d foals were all greater than values observed in mature horses and declined towards mature values as foals reached 160 d of age. Baseline glucose concentrations were all within normal range, but higher in foals born from HS mares through 80 d of age. Insulin sensitivity was not different between dietary groups until a trend for lower insulin sensitivity in HS foals emerged at 160 d of age. These data are the first to characterize decreasing insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in Thoroughbred foals from 5 to 160 d of age. This study also presents the first data examining glucose and insulin dynamics in developing foals in response to maternal high starch diet.

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