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Physiol Behav. 2000 Jun 1-15;69(4-5):383-9.

Protein selection, food intake, and body composition in response to the amount of dietary protein.

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Department of Foods and Nutrition, University of Georgia, 30602, Athens, GA, USA.


Though not universally observed, moderately low-protein diets have been found to increase caloric intake and body fat. It appears that animals overeat in calories in order to obtain more dietary protein. For animals to control protein intake, they must be able to distinguish between two isocaloric diets containing different percentages of protein and make the appropriate dietary selection on the basis of their previous history of protein intake. Experiment 1 examined the 24-h diet selection (5 vs. 35% casein) of Sprague-Dawley rats that had been previously fed diets containing various percentages of dietary protein (5, 10, 20, 35, or 60% casein). Animals fed 5, 10, or 20% dietary protein showed a preference for the higher protein selection diet. In contrast, no significant diet preference was found in animals pre-fed the two higher levels of dietary protein (35 or 60% casein). In this study, daily food intake and body fat of rats fed the low-protein diets (5 and 10% casein) were similar to rats fed the 20% casein diet. Experiment 2 examined the effects of the level of methionine supplementation on rats fed 10% casein. In this study, food intake and body fat were increased by approximately 20% in rats fed 10% casein diets, regardless of the level of methionine supplementation (0.3 vs. 0.15%). Together, the results suggest that the presence of low-protein-induced hyperphagia helps maintain body protein levels in the face of moderately low dietary protein and promotes an increase in the amount of body fat and energy.

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