SUMMARY: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of maternal protein and energy restriction during lactation, analyzing on morphological dimensions whether there was catch-up growth through normative nutrition restored, as well as on mechanical axis of femur of the offspring at adulthood. At parturition, Wistar rat dams were randomly assigned to the following groups: 1) control group (C) - free access to a standard laboratory diet containing 23 % protein, 2) protein-energy restricted group (PER) - free access to an isoenergetic, protein-restricted diet containing 8 % protein, and 3) energy-restricted group (ER) – fed with restricted amounts of a standard laboratory diet. At weaning, all pups were separated of dams and received free access to a standard laboratory diet containing 23 % protein until 180 days, when the rats were anesthetized and sacrificed. The dimensions of excised pup femur were measured directly using pre-established anatomical points. Morphometric analysis of the femur (macroscopic) showed that most of the measurements in the ER and PER groups were significantly lower than in the control group, with the greatest reductions occurring in the PER group and several structural abnormalities. Our results show that protein and energy restriction during lactation leads to an incomplete catch-up growth in adulthood. The femur showed significant reduction in most of the parameters in the two treated groups, particularly the PER group, when compared to the control group.
KEY WORDS: Rats; Femur; Undernutrition; Growth; Morphometry.