Background: Excess protein intake in early life has been linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome in later life. Yet protein, and in particular the essential amino acids (EAAs), need to be present in adequate quantity to support growth.
Objective: With the use of a piglet model restricted in dietary amino acids (AAs), we compared the efficacy and safety of a standard formula with a low-AA formula containing an adjusted AA composition.
Methods: Female piglets (3-7 d old; Landrace × Yorkshire × Duroc) were fed 1 of 4 isoenergetic AA-based formulas for 14 d (700 kJ · kg body weight-1 · d-1). The formulas contained a set control amount (44 g/L) and AA compositions referred to as the experimental standard (ST-100, n = 22), or 20% or 50% lower total AAs (respectively, ST-80, n = 19 and ST-50, n = 13), or 20% lower total AAs with an optimally adjusted EAA composition (O-80, n = 17). A series of clinical and paraclinical endpoints were measured.
Results: Growth rates were similar for ST-100, O-80 and ST-80 piglets (all ∼15 g · kg-1 · d-1), whereas ST-50 had a markedly lower weight gain relative to all groups (all P < 0.05). Relative to ST-100, all groups with reduced AA intake showed ∼16% reduction in plasma albumin and ∼30% reduction in plasma urea (both P < 0.05). The absolute leucine oxidation rate was ∼30% lower for O-80 than for ST-100 piglets (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: These data show that a 20% reduction in total AA intake for both the control (ST-80) and the adjusted AA (O-80) formula did not have any short-term adverse effects on growth in artificially reared, AA-restricted piglets. The lower absolute leucine oxidation rate observed in O-80 supports the development of an infant formula with an improved AA composition and a moderate reduction in total protein to support adequate growth in healthy infants.