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High-Protein Diets Alters Body Composition and Improves Insulin Resistance in a Rat Model of Low Birth Weight
  1. Mu-xue Yu, MD*,
  2. Zhen-yu Shen, MD*,
  3. Xiao-shan Qiu, MM*,
  4. Qing-ping Mo, MB
  1. From the *Department of Pediatrics, the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, and †Department of Pediatrics, Huangpu Hospital of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China.
  1. Received May 17, 2012, and in revised form September 11, 2012.
  2. Accepted for publication September 12, 2012.
  3. Reprints: Zhen-yu Shen, MD, Department of Pediatrics, the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. E-mail: zsdxek2008{at}
  4. This work was supported by the Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province, China (2011B031800143, 2009B060700038, 2008B060600062, and 2007B031510005).
  5. Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (


Objective We aimed to investigate the effects of early high-protein supplementation on low birth weight (LBW)–associated adult metabolic disturbances.

Materials and Methods This study involved 32 LBW rat pups that were fed a normal protein (20% of energy intake) diet or high-protein (30% of energy intake) diet on their first 4 weeks of life. Sixteen rat pups with normal birth weight (NBW) fed the normal-protein diet were included as control. Biochemical measurements were performed at 4 and 12 weeks of age.

Results Low birth weight offspring showed significantly (P < 0.05) increased fat mass percentage and adipocyte size and decreased lean mass percentage and muscle fiber size relative to NBW offspring. These LBW-related changes in body composition were corrected by high-protein diet intervention. At 12 weeks of age, the fasting insulin level (7.14 ± 0.83 vs 9.27 ± 0.67 mU/L) and homeostasis model of insulin resistance (1.71 ± 0.35 vs 2.30 ± 0.44) were significantly lower in high protein–fed LBW offspring than in normal protein–fed LBW offspring. Low birth weight rat pups showed a significant (P < 0.05) reduction in serum adiponectin concentrations, glucose transporter 4 mRNA abundance, and phosphorylation levels of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) relative to NBW controls. These LBW-associated alterations in gene expression were reversed by early high-protein treatment.

Conclusions Early postnatal high-protein intake alters the body composition and improves insulin resistance in adults with LBW, which is associated with activation of the AMPK and mTOR pathways.

Key Words
  • low birth weight
  • insulin resistance
  • dietary intervention
  • mTOR
  • AMPK
  • composition analysis

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