BACKGROUND: Impaired iron handling in riboflavin deficiency is thought to be partially a result of significant morphological and cytokinetic changes within the small intestine. AIMS: The aim of the study was to find out if the responses of the rat small intestine to riboflavin deficiency induced at weaning could be reversed upon repletion. SUBJECTS: 48 female weanling Wistar rats were used for the purpose of the study. METHODS: Rats were fed a riboflavin deficient diet or a complete control diet for a period of five weeks followed by a repletion period of up to three weeks. Rats were killed on day 0, 2, 7, or 21 of repletion. The duodenum was removed and fixed for subsequent analysis. RESULTS: Five weeks of riboflavin deficiency significantly changed the morphology and cytokinetics of the duodenum; the changes were not reversed within the 21 day repletion period despite biochemical evidence for a correction of the deficiency. CONCLUSIONS: The results show that the small intestine cannot readily recover from a period of riboflavin deficiency induced at weaning, supporting the notion that the weaning period is a critical time for gastrointestinal development and highlighting the importance of adequate nutrition during infancy.
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