Dietary protein and(or) energy restriction in mares: plasma growth hormone, IGF-I, prolactin, cortisol, and thyroid hormone responses to feeding, glucose, and epinephrine

J Anim Sci. 1995 May;73(5):1424-32. doi: 10.2527/1995.7351424x.


Sixteen light horse mares were fed diets of bermudagrass hay and a corn/cottonseed hull-based supplement formulated to contain either 100% (control) or 50% (restricted) of the protein and(or) energy requirements for maintenance in a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Plasma IGF-I, prolactin, cortisol, triiodothyronine, and thyroxine were monitored for 33 d. On the 27th d, frequent blood samples were drawn throughout the day for the measurement of growth hormone (GH), and on the 29th d, an epinephrine challenge and an i.v. glucose tolerance test (IVGTT) were performed in the morning and afternoon, respectively. Restriction of protein and(or) energy reduced (P < .001) plasma IGF-I concentrations within 24 h, and the effect persisted through the 24th d. Energy restriction decreased (P = .01) plasma cortisol concentrations, whereas thyroid hormones were not influenced (P > .1) by restriction of protein and(or) energy. Plasma prolactin concentrations were low throughout the experiment and after the IVGTT, but they increased (P = .003) after feeding. Protein restriction increased (P = .09) the occurrence of GH episodes during the 14-h feeding period on d 27; the greatest effect occurred in the mares restricted in both nutrients. In contrast, energy restriction reduced (P = .05) the GH response to epinephrine injection. We conclude that 1) protein deficiency in mares increases GH secretion, whereas energy restriction alone does not, 2) a deficiency in energy and(or) protein reduces IGF-I secretion, and 3) prolactin concentrations increase after feeding, even at a time of year when secretion rates are naturally low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted / standards
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted / veterinary*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Horses / blood
  • Horses / metabolism*
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Prolactin
  • Growth Hormone
  • Glucose
  • Thyroxine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine