Prenatal and perinatal zinc restriction: effects on body composition, glucose tolerance and insulin response in rat offspring


  • I. J. N. Padmavathi and Y. Durga Kishore contributed equally to this work.

Corresponding author M. Raghunath: Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, National Institute of Nutrition, Jamai Osmania P.O., Hyderabad – 500 007, India. Email:


Maternal undernutrition increases the risk of adult chronic diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. This study evaluated the effect of maternal zinc restriction in predisposing the offspring to adiposity and altered insulin response in later life. Seventy-day-old female Wistar/NIN rats received a control (ZnC) or zinc-restricted (ZnR) diet for 2 weeks. Following mating with control males, a subgroup of the ZnR dams were rehabilitated with ZnC diet from parturition. Half the offspring born to the remaining ZnR dams were weaned onto the ZnC diet and the other half continued on the ZnR diet throughout their life. Body composition, glucose tolerance, insulin response and plasma lipid profile were assessed in male and female offspring at 3 and 6 months of age. The ZnR offspring weighed less than control offspring at birth and weaning and continued so until 6 months of age. Rehabilitation regimens corrected the body weights of male but not female offspring. Maternal zinc restriction increased the percentage of body fat and decreased lean mass, fat-free mass and fasting plasma insulin levels in both male and female offspring at 6 months of age. Also, glucose-induced insulin secretion was decreased in female but not male offspring. Despite the differences in fasting insulin and the area under the curve for insulin, the fasting glucose and the area under the curve for glucose were in general comparable among offspring of different groups. Rehabilitation from parturition or weaning partly corrected the changes in the percentage of body fat but had no such effect on other parameters. Changes in plasma lipid profile were inconsistent among the offspring of different groups. Thus chronic maternal zinc restriction altered the body composition and impaired the glucose-induced insulin secretion in the offspring.