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J Nutr. 1983 Nov;113(11):2308-15.

Protein deficiency: effects on lung mechanics and the accumulation of collagen and elastin in rat lung.


Groups of weanling (approximately 50 g) or young adult (approximately 300 g) rats were fed ad libitum casein-based diets varying in protein content from 4 to 16%. A group was also fed the 16% protein diet in an amount on a daily basis restricted to that consumed by the protein-deficient group (4% protein). The rats were fed the diets for either 4 weeks (weanling) or 6 weeks (adults). Protein-deficient or "food-restricted" rats (whether weanling or adults) were smaller and had smaller lungs than rats fed ad libitum the diets containing 16% protein. The lung elastin content was more resistant to dietary manipulation than was the lung collagen content. Lung collagen was significantly decreased in both weanling and adult rats fed the 4% protein diet. In weanling rats, pressure-volume relationships derived from saline-filled lungs (analyzed by exponential curve-fitting methods) suggested that lungs from food-restricted rats may be less compliant than lungs from rats fed the control diet ad libitum. When expressed in absolute terms, lungs from protein-deficient rats also appeared to be less compliant than normal rats; however, on a relative basis (percentage of volume at a given recoil pressure or the expression of volume on a weight basis) differences in compliance were less apparent. It is proposed that in weanling rats the differences in lung composition and compliance are the result of retarded lung growth and perhaps development.

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