High protein intake has been associated with increased growth. This may be linked to increased concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), which seems to be influenced by the diet, especially its protein component. The short-term effects of high protein intake in late infancy are not known. The objective was to investigate the effects of high protein intake in the form of whole milk (WM) on growth and IGF-I from 9 to 12 months of age.
Healthy infants (n=83) were randomized to receive either WM or infant formula and fish oil or no fish oil (2 × 2 design). Anthropometric variables, IGF-I concentrations, serum urea nitrogen (SUN) and diet were recorded before and after the intervention.
Intake of WM significantly increased the protein energy percentage (PE%; P⩽0.001) and SUN (P=0.01), whereas there was no effect on size. The milk intervention increased IGF-I in boys (P=0.034) but not in girls. Intake of fish oil had no effect on the outcomes. Including all infants in the analysis there was a significant correlation between weight and IGF-I at 12 months (r=0.316, P=0.017), and PE% was positively associated with IGF-I after adjusting for sex and breastfeeding at both 9 (r=0.329, P=0.015) and 12 months (r=0.272, P=0.044).
Randomization to WM had no overall effect on growth. However, the positive effect of WM on IGF-I in boys and the positive association between PE% intake and IGF-I at 9 and 12 months is consistent with the hypothesis that a high milk intake stimulates growth.
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Protein and growth during the first year of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis
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We gratefully acknowledge Majken Ege, Camilla T Damsgaard, Susan B Nielsen and Puk I Holm for collecting the data. Furthermore, we thank Vivian Anker and Leif Jacobsen for technical assistance. The study was funded by the Danish Research and Development Programme for Food and Technology.
Contributors: KFM and CM were responsible for the intervention study idea. KFM, CM and CH were responsible for the study design and CH for the data collection. AL conducted the statistical analyses and prepared the first draft of the manuscript. All contributors participated in interpreting the results and were involved in preparing the final draft of the manuscript.
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Larnkjær, A., Hoppe, C., Mølgaard, C. et al. The effects of whole milk and infant formula on growth and IGF-I in late infancy. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, 956–963 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2008.80
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