Human milk promotes less than optimal growth and is associated with phosphorus deficiency and decreased bone mineralization in very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants. In this study, the effects of feeding premature infants either human milk (HM), fortified human milk (FHM), or special premature formula (Similac Special Care [SSC]) on growth, phosphorus metabolism, and serum type I procollagen (pColl-I-C) were evaluated. Infants fed FHM exhibited a rate of weight gain and an increase in head circumference comparable with infants fed SSC and significantly greater than infants fed HM, despite the fact that both the FHM group and the HM group demonstrated biochemical evidence of phosphorus deficiency. The pColl-I-C concentrations in VLBW infants were tenfold to 20-fold greater than concentrations in normal children older than 2 years of age. The pColl-I-C levels correlated positively with weight gain and were significantly greater in the FHM and SSC groups than in the HM group. By contrast, serum alkaline phosphatase levels did not correlate with weight gain and were significantly lower in the rapidly growing SSC group than in either of the two groups with phosphorus deficiency and presumed poor bone mineralization. We conclude that the serum pColl-I-C concentration is a biochemical marker of growth in VLBW infants and may prove useful as a predictor of growth responses to various nutritional and therapeutic interventions.