The optimal quantity and quality of protein for low-birthweight infants is undefined. In this study, 106 well, appropriate-for-gestational age, low-birthweight infants weighing 2,100 gm or less were grouped in three gestational age categories: T1 = 28 to 30 weeks; T2 = 31 to 33 weeks; T3 = 34 to 36 weeks. Each group was assigned randomly to either banked human milk (BM) or to one of four isocaloric formulas varying in quantity and quality of protein but not in mineral content or in fat content: formula 1 = 1.5 gm of protein per 100 ml, 60 parts bovine whey proteins to 40 parts bovine caseins: formula 2 = 3.0 gm of protein per 100 ml, 60:40; formula 3 = 1.5 gm of protein per 100 ml, 18:82; formula 4 = 3.0 gm of protein per 100 ml, 18:82. Caloric intake was 117 kcal/150 ml/kg/day for the formulas. Human milk was fed at 170 ml/kg/day in order to attain a caloric intake approximately equal to that of the formulas. No significant differences were found in the rate of growth in crown-rump length, in femoral length, in head circumference, or in rate of gain in weight from time of regaining birthweight to time of discharge at 2,400 gm. Blood urea nitrogen, urine osmolarity, total serum protein, serum albumin, aiud serum globulin varied directly with the quantity of protein in the diet: F2, F4 > F1, F3 > BM. Blood ammonia concentration varied with both quantity and qualtiy of protein in the diet: F2, F3, F4 > F1, BM. Metabolic acidosis was more frequent, more severe, and more prolonged in the infants fed the casein-predominant formulas (F3, F4) than in those fed the whey protein-predominant formulas (Fl, F2).
- Received September 26, 1975.
- Accepted December 26, 1975.
- Copyright © 1976 by the American Academy of Pediatrics