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J Nutr. 2001 Jan;131(1):53-8.

Energy requirements of lactating women derived from doubly labeled water and milk energy output.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Instead of using an incremental approach to assess the energy requirements of lactation, a more comprehensive approach may be taken by measuring total energy expenditure (TEE), milk energy output and energy mobilization from tissue stores. The latter approach avoids assumptions regarding energetic efficiency and changes in physical activity and adiposity. The purpose of this study was threefold: to assess the energy requirements of lactation; to compare these estimates with energy requirements in the nonpregnant, nonlactating state and to test for energetic adaptations in basal metabolic rate (BMR) and physical activity during the energy-demanding process of lactation. Milk production and composition, body weight and composition, TEE, BMR and physical activity levels were measured in 24 well-nourished women during exclusive breastfeeding at 3 mo postpartum and after the cessation of breastfeeding at 18 or 24 mo postpartum. TEE was measured by the doubly labeled water method, milk production by 3-d test-weighing, milk energy by bomb calorimetry on a 24-h milk sample, body composition by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and BMR by room respiration calorimetry. TEE, BMR and physical activity level (physical activity level = TEE/BMR) did not differ between the lactating and nonlactating state (TEE 10.0 +/- 1.5 versus 10.6 +/- 2.1 MJ/d). Mean milk energy output was equivalent to 2.02 +/- 0.33 MJ/d. Total energy requirements were greater during lactation than afterward (12.0 +/- 1.4 versus 10.6 +/- 2.1 MJ/d, P: = 0.002). Energy mobilization from tissue stores (-0.65 +/- 0.97 MJ/d) resulted in net energy requirements during lactation of 11.4 +/- 1.8 MJ/d. Because adaptations in basal metabolism and physical activity were not evident in these well-nourished women, energy requirements during lactation were met primarily from the diet and only partially by mobilization of tissue stores.

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