1. The effects of ‘cafeteria feeding’ on primiparous Wistar rats during lactation have been studied by measuring circulating levels of glucose, amino acids, lactate, urea and ammonia as well as glycogen levels in liver and muscle.
2. No significant changes in glucose levels were observed despite alterations in blood glucose compartmentation.
3. Compared with controls, the dams given the cafeteria diet had higher liver glycogen stores which were more easily mobilized at the peak of lactation.
4. Rats given the cafeteria diet showed a lower amino acid utilization than controls and adequately maintained circulating levels, as determined by the lower circulating levels of ammonia and urea.
5. No significant differences in body-weight were observed in the period studied despite increasing dam weight after weaning in the cafeteria-fed group.
6. The size of pups of cafeteria-fed dams was greater than that of controls, and the differences were marked after weaning, when the metabolic machinery of the cafeteria pup maintained high protein accretion and body build-up using fat as the main energy substrate characteristic of the preweaning stage. The controls, however, changed to greater utilization of amino acids as an energy substrate and adapted to high-protein (low- biological-quality) diets with a significantly different pattern of circulating nitrogen distribution.