Nutrient supply to the fetus is one of the crucial factors in the regulation of fetal growth and reproductive development. The effect of maternal nutrition can be exerted at all stages of fetal development, from conception until birth. A meta-analysis of maternal nutrition effects on the growth and reproductive development of male sheep offspring was undertaken using sixteen sheep studies. Eleven studies were included for prediction of the growth curves using a logistic growth model, and eleven studies were included for reproductive development and analysed using a mixed model. The meta-analysis suggested that, male sheep offspring undernourished during gestation had a significantly slower growth and lower testosterone levels while there were no statistically significant effects on testis weight, seminiferous tubule diameter or Sertoli cell count. The lack of a statistical effect on seminiferous tubule diameter and Sertoli cell count may be due to the limited number of studies examining the effects of maternal nutrition during pregnancy on male sheep offspring reproductive development. The meta-analysis reported here suggests that additional studies are warranted to more conclusively determine whether maternal nutrition during pregnancy effects male sheep growth and reproductive development.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 72, Christchurch, 51-57, 2012
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