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Br J Nutr. 1982 Sep;48(2):433-41.

The utilization of protein and energy during lactation in the rat, with particular regard to the use of fat accumulated in pregnancy.


1. The deposition of fat during pregnancy and its subsequent mobilization during lactation was studied in the rat. The utilization of protein during lactation was also investigated. 2. Fat accumulation was rapid and continuous from early pregnancy. Approximately one-third was deposited subcutaneously, the remainder being stored in central depots. 3. The volume of milk produced during lactation was varied by offering protein at two concentrations from day 2 post partum. Optimum lactation was achieved with a high-protein diet. The dams lost no body protein, but 60% of the total body fat was mobilized, despite a marked increase in food consumption. On a low-protein diet, food intake did not rise during lactation. Some body protein was catabolized and, again, 60% of the fat was mobilized although milk output, as judged by the gain in carcass energy of their pups, was reduced to approximately one-third of optimum. 4. Protein was used more efficiently by lactating rats, when compared with virgin controls. 5. We conclude that fat stored during pregnancy makes a major contribution to the energy costs of lactation, and that its mobilization is under hormonal rather than dietary control.

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