Low birth weight infants have higher mortality rates and are at a greater risk of impaired immunity in later life than are their normal-birth-weight counterparts. The aim was to investigate the effect of maternal dietary fat supplementation during the first or second half of gestation on the plasma immunoglobulin A concentration in her offspring.
Six pregnant sows were randomly allocated to receive 10% extra energy derived from dietary fat during either the first (G1: n=3) or second (G2: n=3) 60 days of gestation as follows. Pigs were weighed at birth and, using the normal distribution of birth weights, a low (L: <10th percentile; n=6) and normal (N: 40th-60th percentile; n=12) piglet was selected from each litter. Milk production was determined on days 2, 7, 14 and 12 of lactation using the weigh-suckle-weight method. A blood sample was taken from each pig at 5-6 months of age and plasma IgA concentration determined by ELISA. Data was analysed using General Linear Model, ANOVA; values are presented as mean±SEM.
Milk yield was lower in G1 sows on day 2 of lactation (G1: 0.15±0.03: G2: 0.22±0.04 kg/suckling) and remained lower throughout the lactation period. L piglets born to mothers who received dietary fat supplementation in the first half of gestation had a higher (P<0.05) concentration of IgA in later life but this was not apparent in N animals. (G1: L, 1.55±0.23; N, 0.98±0.14: G2: L, 0.88±0.21; N, 0.88±0.18 ng/ml).
In conclusion, prenatal diet in conjunction with size at birth can have a pronounced impact on the immunoglobulin status of her offspring in later life. The increased milk yield of G2 sows appeared to have a beneficial influence on the immune status of the low birth weight piglet.
The study was part of PeriLip, supported by the EU (QLK1-2001-00138).