The objective was to determine effects of feed restriction and refeeding on reproductive development and energy balance in pre-pubertal male rats. Sprague Dawley rats (n
= 32, 24 days old, ~65 g), were randomly allocated into four treatments (n
= 8/treatment): (1) Control (CON, ad libitum feed; (2) Mild Restriction (MR, rats fed 75% of CON consumption); (3) Profound Restriction (PR, 50% of CON consumption); or (4) Refeeding (RF, 50% restriction for 14 days, and then ad libitum for 7 days). Feed restriction delayed reproductive development and decreased energy balance and tissue accretion, with degree of reproductive and metabolic dysfunctions related to restriction severity. In RF rats, refeeding largely restored testis weight, sperm production (per gram and total), plasma IGF-1, leptin and insulin concentrations and energy expenditure, although body composition did not completely recover. On Day 50, more CON and RF rats than PR rats were pubertal (5/6, 4/5 and 1/6, respectively; plasma testosterone >1 ng/mL) with the MR group (4/6) not different. Our hypothesis was supported: nutrient restriction of pre-pubertal rats delayed reproductive development, induced negative energy balance and decreased metabolic hormone concentrations (commensurate with restriction), whereas short-term refeeding after profound restriction largely restored reproductive end points and plasma hormone concentrations, but not body composition.
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