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J Nutr. 2010 Sep;140(9):1621-7. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.119677. Epub 2010 Jul 21.

Maternal zinc deficiency in rats affects growth and glucose metabolism in the offspring by inducing insulin resistance postnatally.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Interactions among zinc (Zn), insulin, and glucose metabolism are complex. Maternal Zn deficiency affects maternal carbohydrate metabolism, but the mechanisms underlying changes in glucose homeostasis of offspring are not well understood. Rats consumed Zn-deficient (ZnD; 7 microg/g) or control (ZnC; 25 microg/g) diets ad libitum from 3 wk preconception to 21 d postparturition. Litters were culled to 7 pups/dam postnatally and pups were allowed to nurse their original mothers; after weaning, pups were fed nonpurified diet. Insulin and glucose tolerance tests were performed on the pups at wk 5 and 10. Although there was no difference in birth weight between groups, ZnD pups weighed significantly more than controls by d 10 (+5%) and 20 (+10%). Both blood glucose and serum insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) concentrations at wk 3 were significantly higher in ZnD pups than in controls. Both male and female ZnD rats were less sensitive to insulin and glucose stimulation than controls at wk 5 and 10. At wk 15, serum leptin concentrations were higher in male ZnD rats than in controls. Phosphorylation of muscle Akt protein, an insulin receptor (IR) signaling intermediate, was lower in female ZnD rats than in controls at wk 15, but they did not differ in phosphorylation of IR. Maternal Zn deficiency resulted in greater serum IGF-1 concentrations and the excessive postnatal weight gain in their offspring as well as impaired subsequent glucose sensitivity. It was associated with gender-specific alterations in the serum leptin concentration and the insulin signaling pathway. These findings suggest that suboptimal maternal Zn status induces long-term changes in the offspring related to abnormal glucose tolerance.

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