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Animal. 2011 Feb;5(2):268-77. doi: 10.1017/S1751731110001734.

High-protein diet during gestation and lactation affects mammary gland mRNA abundance, milk composition and pre-weaning litter growth in mice.

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Research Unit Nutritional Physiology, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Dummerstorf, Germany.


We evaluated the effect of a high-protein diet (HP) on pregnancy, lactational and rearing success in mice. At the time of mating, females were randomly assigned to isoenergetic diets with HP (40% w/w) or control protein levels (C; 20%). After parturition, half of the dams were fed the other diet throughout lactation resulting in four dietary groups: CC (C diet during gestation and lactation), CHP (C diet during gestation and HP diet during lactation), HPC (HP diet during gestation and C diet during lactation) and HPHP (HP diet during gestation and lactation). Maternal and offspring body mass was monitored. Measurements of maternal mammary gland (MG), kidney and abdominal fat pad masses, MG histology and MG mRNA abundance, as well as milk composition were taken at selected time points. HP diet decreased abdominal fat and increased kidney mass of lactating dams. Litter mass at birth was lower in HP than in C dams (14.8 v. 16.8 g). Dams fed an HP diet during lactation showed 5% less food intake (10.4 v. 10.9 g/day) and lower body and MG mass. On day 14 of lactation, the proportion of MG parenchyma was lower in dams fed an HP diet during gestation as compared to dams fed a C diet (64.8% v. 75.8%). Abundance of MG α-lactalbumin, β-casein, whey acidic protein, xanthine oxidoreductase mRNA at mid-lactation was decreased in all groups receiving an HP diet either during gestation and/or lactation. Milk lactose content was lower in dams fed an HP diet during lactation compared to dams fed a C diet (1.6% v. 2.0%). On days 14, 18 and 21 of lactation total litter mass was lower in litters of dams fed an HP diet during lactation, and the pups' relative kidney mass was greater than in litters suckled by dams receiving a C diet. These findings indicate that excess protein intake in reproducing mice has adverse effects on offspring early in their postnatal growth as a consequence of impaired lactational function.


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