Beneficial effects of a decreased meal frequency on nutrient utilization, secretion of luteinizing hormones and ovarian follicular development in gilts
Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Background Replacement gilts are typically fed ad libitum, whereas emerging evidence from human and rodent studies has revealed that time-restricted access to food has health benefits. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of meal frequency on the metabolic status and ovarian follicular development in gilts. Methods A total of 36 gilts (Landrace × Yorkshire) with an age of 150±3 d and a body weight of 77.6±3.8 kg were randomly allocated into one of three groups (n = 12 in
... h group), and based on the group allocation, the gilts were fed at a frequency of one meal (T1), two meals (T2), or six meals per day (T6) for 14 consecutive weeks. The effects of the meal frequency on growth preference, nutrient utilization, short-chain fatty acid production by gut microbial, the post-meal dynamics in the metabolic status, reproductive hormone secretions, and ovarian follicular development in the gilts were measured. Results The gilts in the T1 group presented a higher average daily gain (+ 48 g/d, P < 0.05) and a higher body weight (+ 4.9 kg, P < 0.05) than those in the T6 group. The meal frequency had no effect on the apparent digestibility of dry matter, crude protein, ether extract, ash, and gross energy, with the exception that the T1 gilts exhibited a greater NDF digestibility than the T6 gilts (P < 0.05). The nitrogen balance analysis revealed that the T1 gilts presented decreased urine excretion of nitrogen (− 8.17 g/d, P < 0.05) and higher nitrogen retention (+ 9.81 g/d, P < 0.05), and thus exhibited higher nitrogen utilization than the T6 gilts. The time-course dynamics of glucose, α-amino nitrogen, urea, lactate, and insulin levels in serum revealed that the T1 group exhibited higher utilization of nutrients after a meal than the T2 or T6 gilts. The T1 gilts also had a higher acetate content and SCFAs in feces than the T6 gilts (P < 0.05). The age, body weight and backfat thickness of the gilts at first estrous expression were not affected by the meal frequency, but the gilts in the T1 group had higher levels of serum luteinizing hormone on the 18th day of the 3rd estrus cycle and 17β-estradiol, a larger number of growing follicles and corpora lutea, and higher mRNA expression levels of genes related to follicular development on the 19th day of the 3rd estrus cycle. Conclusions The current findings revealed the benefits of a lower meal frequency equal feed intake on nutrient utilization and reproductive function in replacement gilts, and thus provide new insights into the nutritional strategy for replacement gilts, and the dietary pattern for other mammals, such as humans.