Marginal dietary protein restriction reduced nonprotein nitrogen, but not protein nitrogen, components of human milk

J Am Coll Nutr. 1995 Apr;14(2):184-91. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1995.10718492.


Objective: This study was designed to determine whether marginal dietary protein intakes of lactating women alter their milk production and composition. The study followed the observation that marginal dietary protein intakes lead to significantly negative nitrogen balances in these women.

Methods: Twenty-four healthy, mature lactating women were divided evenly into three groups on the basis of postpartum times; 1, 5, or 12 months. Each woman was given a controlled protein diet of either 1.5 (HP) or 1.0 (MP) g/kg body weight/day for 7 to 10 days. Milk production was measured for 72 hours by test weighing the infant before and after feeding. Milk samples from alternate breasts were collected for 24 hours, pooled, and analyzed for their protein nitrogen, nonprotein nitrogen, free and protein-bound amino acid, and lactoferrin concentrations.

Results: Reduced dietary protein intakes were associated with a decrease (p < 0.05) in the nonprotein nitrogen and total free amino acid fractions of milk. Although urea was unaffected, the concentrations of milk free leucine, phenylalanine, histidine, and ornithine were lower (p < 0.05) in the MP than in the HP group, while the output of leucine and histidine tended to be lower in the MP group. The amount of milk produced, as well as the amounts of protein nitrogen, protein-bound amino acid, and lactoferrin and their concentrations were unaffected by a reduction of dietary protein.

Conclusions: Maternal milk production and the protein nitrogen, but not the nonprotein nitrogen, fraction of human milk were relatively well-preserved in the presence of a short-term, marginal reduction of dietary protein.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Lactoferrin / metabolism
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Ornithine / metabolism
  • Phenylalanine / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Milk Proteins
  • Phenylalanine
  • Histidine
  • Ornithine
  • Lactoferrin
  • Leucine
  • Nitrogen