Pre- and post-weaning milk consumption effects on lipid metabolism in rats

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      Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were given milk or water as their drinking fluid during the last third of their pregnancy and after birth of their pups. At 30 days of age offspring were placed on either milk or water yielding four groups: suckled to milk drinking dam, weaned to water or milk (milk-water and milk-milk) or weaned to water drinking dam, placed on water or milk (water-water, water-milk). After 5 weeks, rats were killed and serum and liver lipids, cholesterol absorption and activity of hepatic enzymes of lipid metabolism were determined. Rats drinking milk obtained more calories from fluid and less from solid food. Pups suckled to water drinking dams weighed significantly less at weaning but gained more weight during the post-weaning period. The milk-water group ingested fewer calories than the other three. There were no significant differences in serum or liver lipids among the four groups. Cholesterol absorption was higher in the two groups suckled to milk-drinking dams, who excreted about 40% less fecal neutral steroid and 30% less acidic steroid. Hepatic HMG-CoA reductase activity was similar in all groups but cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase activity was 180% higher in rats suckled to water-drinking dams. Hepatic fatty acid synthesis activity was elevated in rats given water in the post-weaning period regardless of the dam's drinking regimen. The data suggest that milk affects aspects of lipid metabolism in young rats in a complex fashion. The drinking regimen of both the dam and the pups determines the observed effect. While serum and liver lipid levels are not altered, cholesterol absorption, degradation and fatty acid synthesis are affected significantly. Cholesterol absorption is lowest and cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase activity is highest in pups suckled to water-drinking dams regardless of their post-weaning regimen. Fatty acid synthetase is highest is pups given water regardless of the maternal drinking fluid.


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