Protein and lipid refeeding changes protein metabolism and colonic but not small intestinal morphology in protein-depleted rats

J Nutr. 1996 Apr;126(4):906-12. doi: 10.1093/jn/126.4.906.


In this study, we fed rats a 2% casein AIN 76 diet for 2 wk to produce protein malnutrition. We determined in these animals the effects of different concentrations of dietary protein refeeding (2% and 20% casein) on recovery and gut mucosal repletion and the potential role of type of dietary fat in the regulation of protein metabolism and mucosal growth by providing conventional long-chain triglyceride (LCT), a structured lipid composed of long-, medium- and short-chain fatty acids (SC/SL), or a physical mixture of the same components present in the structured lipid given as individual pure triglycerides (SC/PM) along with adequate amounts of protein and energy. The results confirmed that protein malnutrition can be reversed rapidly by protein refeeding, as indicated by an increase in body weight, positive nitrogen balance, liver growth and elevations in plasma concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1, leucine and albumin. In the colon, crypt cell number, crypt depth and number of crypt cells in the rapidly proliferating fraction of the colon were greater in rats fed the higher protein diet. However, the general architecture of small intestinal mucosa, including duodenum, jejunum and ileum, was not affected by protein malnutrition. Although the number of colonic cells was similar with fat refeeding, there were significantly fewer displaying the proliferating cell nuclear antigen in the colonic epithelium when rats were fed SC/PM compared with SC/SL. Therefore, changes in colonic mucosal proliferation were only seen with repletion by adequate protein and by SC/SL feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestine, Small / pathology*
  • Leucine / blood
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Male
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Protein Deficiency / diet therapy
  • Protein Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Protein Deficiency / pathology
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Weight Gain


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Leucine
  • Nitrogen