Food Restriction Induced Thyroid Changes and Their Reversal After Refeeding in Female Rats and Their Pups


In the present study, two groups of pregnant female rats were submitted to food restriction (24 h fast versus 24 h diet intake) from the 14th day of pregnancy until either the 14th day (group B) or the 4th day after parturition (group C). All pups and their mothers were sacrificed on day 14 after delivery. The body weight of the 14-day-old pups (group B) was 46% less than the controls (group A). Free thyroxine and free triiodothyronine levels in the plasma were reduced by 44 and 16% in pups and by 20 and 36% in their mothers, respectively. These reductions were correlated with a decrease in thyroid iodine content of the pups (−50%) and their mothers (−24%). Radioiodine uptake (131I) by the thyroid gland of pups was significantly increased by 27%. Plasma TSH levels were decreased by 38% in pups and by 44% in dams. Morphological changes in thyroid glands were observed in energy restricted dams and in their pups. Some of follicles in pups were empty. Moroever in dams, we noted the presence of peripheral resorbed vacuoles, sign of thyroid hyperactivity. After a refeeding (group C) period of ten days, total recovery occurred in plasma thyroid hormone levels (FT4 and FT3) and in thyroid iodine contents of pups in spite of a partial recovery of body weights and plasma TSH levels. In dams, a partial recovery occurred in plasma thyroid hormone levels in spite of total recovery in thyroid iodine contents, while plasma TSH levels exceeded control values. A significant amelioration in thyroid histological aspects was observed in pups and their dams.


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The authors thank to Mrs Nabiha Mezghanni for her skillful technical assistance in radio-immunoassay determinations of FT3, FT4 and TSH plasma levels. The present work was supported by the DGRST grant (Appui à la Recherche Universitaire de Base ARUB 99/UR/08-73), Tunisia.

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Correspondence to Najiba Zeghal.

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Fetoui, H., Bouaziz, H., Mahjoubi-Samet, A. et al. Food Restriction Induced Thyroid Changes and Their Reversal After Refeeding in Female Rats and Their Pups. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 57, 391–402 (2006).

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  • Food restriction
  • refeeding
  • adult rats
  • nursing pups
  • thyroid hormones