2006 Volume 52 Issue 6 Pages 414-420
To evaluate the long-term effect of mild-early maternal protein malnutrition on weight gain, hematological parameters and macrophage function in rats at adult age, we compared rats whose dams were fed diets containing either 9.5% (low protein—LPD) or 23% protein (normal—NPD) for the first 12 d of lactation. At 80 d of age, the functions of spreading, phagocytosis and killing Candida albicans were determined in resident peritoneal macrophages, whereas leukocytes and red blood cells were counted in peripheral blood. The number of resident peritoneal macrophages from LPD was the same as from NPD, but the ability of spreading and phagocytosing opsonised yeast was impaired. Besides, they were not able to block the germ tube formation or kill C. albicans to the same extent as in the control group. The low protein diet produced a significant reduction in the pups' growth and in hematological parameters although no difference was found in leukocyte counts. Taken together the data suggest that protein malnutrition during early lactation induces permanent alterations in macrophage function, body composition and hematological status, which are not restored completely even after a normal protein diet is supplied.