Bioavailability of Urea Nitrogen for the Low Birthweight Infant
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Previous studies have demonstrated increased retention (40%) of dietary urea nitrogen by term infants recovering from infection compared to healthy infants (13%), possibly due to a higher requirement for nitrogen. Since low birthweight infants also have a high requirement for nitrogen, the bioavailability of urea nitrogen was investigated in low birthweight infants using 15N,15N-urea. Four low birthweight infants (gestational age = 30 +/- 2.2 weeks [mean +/- SD], birthweight = 1.4 +/- 0.3 kg) were fed formula enriched with 15N,15N-urea. Metabolic balance studies (72 hours) were performed with urine and fecal collections. Nitrogen was quantitated by Kjeldahl analysis and 15N,15N-urea by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Mean nitrogen intake was 489 +/- 32 mg/kg/d, with 75% nitrogen absorption and 62% nitrogen retention. Maximum urinary enrichment was 8%. Cumulative 15N,15N-urea excretion was 72%, resulting in 28% retention. Thus the bioavailability of urea nitrogen for low birthweight infants appears to be intermediate between compromised and normal term infants.
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