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J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Mar;113(3):447-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.002.

Dietary protein-induced increases in urinary calcium are accompanied by similar increases in urinary nitrogen and urinary urea: a controlled clinical trial.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, The University of Connecticut, Roy E. Jones Building, Unit 4017, Storrs, CT, USA.


To determine the usefulness of urinary urea as an index of dietary protein intake, 10 postmenopausal women were enrolled in and completed a randomized, double-blind, cross-over feeding trial from September 2008 to May 2010 that compared 10 days of a 45-g whey supplement with 10 days of a 45-g maltodextrin control. Urinary nitrogen, urinary calcium, urinary urea, and bone turnover markers were measured at days 0, 7, and 10. Paired sample t tests, Pearson's correlation statistic, and simple linear regression were used to assess differences between treatments and associations among urinary metabolites. Urinary nitrogen/urinary creatinine rose from 12.3±1.7 g/g (99.6±13.8 mmol/mmol) to 16.8±2.2 g/g (135.5±17.8 mmol/mmol) with whey supplementation, but did not change with maltodextrin. Whey supplementation caused urinary calcium to rise by 4.76±1.84 mg (1.19±0.46 mmol) without a change in bone turnover markers. Because our goal was to estimate protein intake from urinary nitrogen/urinary creatinine, we used our data to develop the following equation: protein intake (g/day)=71.221+1.719×(urinary nitrogen, g)/creatinine, g) (R=0.46, R(2)=0.21). As a more rapid and less costly alternative to urinary nitrogen/urinary creatinine, we next determined whether urinary urea could predict protein intake and found that protein intake (g/day)=63.844+1.11×(urinary urea, g/creatinine, g) (R=0.58, R(2)=0.34). These data indicate that urinary urea/urinary creatinine is at least as good a marker of dietary protein intake as urinary nitrogen and is easier to quantitate in nutrition intervention trials.

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