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Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Feb;67(2):292-300.

Lean body mass of well-nourished women is preserved during lactation.

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


To determine whether the lean body mass of well-nourished women was mobilized to support milk protein output during lactation, the body composition of 10 lactating and 10 nonlactating women was examined longitudinally at 6-wk intervals between 6 and 24 wk postpartum and at 52 wk postpartum, and that of 10 nulliparous women was examined at equivalent intervals, by using clinical anthropometry and whole-body potassium counting. Milk production was determined at 6-wk intervals during the period of exclusive breast-feeding (6-24 wk postpartum) by the test-weighing procedure. Milk composition was determined by chemical analysis. Dietary intakes were determined at 6-wk intervals between 6 and 24 wk postpartum from 3-d food records with use of a nutrient database. Lean body mass was maintained in women who exclusively breast-fed their infants during the first 6 mo postpartum while consuming dietary protein in amounts that exceeded those of their nonlactating counterparts by 55%. The high protein intakes were sustained throughout lactation despite a progressive reduction by 32% of milk protein output. Lean body mass was preserved throughout lactation in well-nourished women, suggesting that the metabolic needs of milk protein production were met solely by higher protein intakes of the lactating women.

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