Effect of initiating enteral protein feeding on whole-body protein turnover in critically ill patients

Felix Liebau*, Jan Wernerman, Luc J. C. van Loon, Olav Rooyackers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Critically ill patients are susceptible to protein catabolism. Enteral feeding may ameliorate protein loss, but its effect is not well characterized in terms of protein kinetics. Objective: We established a method of quantifying the effect of enteral protein feeding on whole-body protein turnover and studied critically ill patients receiving early enteral nutrition. Design: In a proof-of-concept study, we established, in healthy subjects (n = 6), a method of measuring the effect of continuous enteral protein feeding on whole-body protein turnover by using C-13-phenylalanine (C-13-Phe) intrinsically labeled casein by a nasogastric feeding tube and an intravenous H-2(5)-Phe tracer. The protocol was applied to study critically ill patients (n = 10) during the initial hypocaloric-hyponitrogenous dose of enteral nutrition. Results: Patients were catabolic with a negative protein balance. The median splanchnic extraction fraction of hourly dietary Phe intake was 92% (range: 86-99%); that is, the availability of dietary Phe in arterial plasma was low. In patients with a stable parenteral amino acid supply (n = 7), the median net protein balance improved during enteral feeding from -8.6 to -5.8 mu mol.kg body weight(-1).h(-1) (P = 0.018). Conclusions: Whole-body protein turnover and the contribution of dietary protein can be quantified in critically ill patients by using intravenous and enteral stable-isotope Phe tracers. The whole-body protein balance improved during early hypocaloric-hyponitrogenous enteral protein feeding in these patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-557
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • critical illness
  • nutritional support
  • stable isotope tracers
  • whole-body protein turnover
  • intrinsically isotope-labeled casein


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