British Journal of Nutrition

Developmental Biology

Growth, body composition and hormonal status of growing pigs exhibiting a normal or small weight at birth and exposed to a neonatal diet enriched in proteins

Anne Morisea1a2, Bernard Sèvea1a2, Katherine Macéa3, Corinne Magliolaa3, Isabelle Le Huërou-Lurona1a2 and Isabelle Louveaua1a2 c1

a1 INRA, UMR1079 Systèmes d'Elevage Nutrition Animale et Humaine, F-35590 Saint-Gilles, France

a2 Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1079 Systèmes d'Elevage Nutrition Animale et Humaine, F-35000 Rennes, France

a3 Nestlé Research Center, CH-1000 Lausanne 26, Switzerland


Small birth weight and excess of early protein intake are suspected to enhance later obesity risk. The present study was undertaken to determine the impact of neonatal diets differing in protein content on growth, body composition and hormonal status of 70-d-old pigs born with normal weight (NW) or small weight (SW). At 7 d of age, male and female suckled piglets were assigned to the NW (approximately 1·4 kg at birth) or SW (approximately 0·99 kg at birth) groups. They were fed milk replacers formulated to provide an adequate protein (AP) or a high protein (HP) supply for 3 weeks. From weaning to 70 d of age, all animals received ad libitum the same standard diet. Growth rates were higher (P < 0·05) in HP piglets than in AP piglets during formula feeding and remained higher (P < 0·05) only in HP male pigs thereafter. No difference in feed consumption was detected between groups during the periods examined. Carcass lipid content and the relative weight of perirenal adipose tissue did not differ between the AP and HP pigs. Whereas plasma leptin concentration was higher (P < 0·05) in HP pigs than in AP pigs with a marked difference in SW pigs, plasma insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I concentration and expression of IGF system genes were not affected by the diets. In summary, a HP intake during the suckling period induced an increase in growth rate that persisted only in male pigs during the post-weaning period. This response was not associated with any difference in adiposity parameters in this period.

(Received May 19 2010)

(Revised November 25 2010)

(Accepted November 26 2010)

(Online publication January 28 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: I. Louveau, fax +33 2 23 48 50 80, email


Abbreviations: AP, adequate protein; HP, high protein; IGF, insulin-like growth factor; NW, normal birth weight; SW, small birth weight