Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

Association between intake of dietary protein and 3-year-change in body growth among normal and overweight 6-year-old boys and girls (CoSCIS)

Anneke JAH van Vughta1a2 c1, Berit L Heitmanna3, Arie G Nieuwenhuizena1a2, Margriet AB Veldhorsta1a2, Lars Bo Andersena4, Henriette Hasselstroma4, Robert-Jan M Brummera2a5 and Margriet S Westerterp-Plantengaa1a2

a1 Department of Human Biology, Universiteitssingel 50, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

a2 TI Food and Nutrition, PO Box 557, 6700 AN Wageningen, The Netherlands

a3 Research Unit for Dietary Studies, Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark

a4 Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

a5 School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden


Objective Growth hormone (GH) affects linear growth and body composition, by increasing the secretion of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), muscle protein synthesis and lipolysis. The intake of protein (PROT) as well as the specific amino acids arginine (ARG) and lysine (LYS) stimulates GH/IGF-I secretion. The present paper aimed to investigate associations between PROT intake as well as intake of the specific amino acids ARG and LYS, and subsequent 3-year-change in linear growth and body composition among 6-year-old children.

Design Children’s data were collected from Copenhagen (Denmark), during 2001–2002, and again 3 years later. Boys and girls were separated into normal weight and overweight, based on BMI quintiles. Fat-free mass index (FFMI) and fat mass index (FMI) were calculated. Associations between change (Δ) in height, FMI and FFMI, respectively, and habitual PROT intake as well as ARG and LYS were analysed by multiple linear regressions, adjusted for baseline height, FMI or FFMI and energy intake, age, physical activity and socio-economic status.

Setting Eighteen schools in two suburban communities in the Copenhagen (Denmark) area participated in the study.

Subjects In all, 223 children’s data were collected for the present study.

Results High ARG intake was associated with linear growth (β = 1·09 (se 0·54), P = 0·05) among girls. Furthermore, in girls, ΔFMI had a stronger inverse association with high ARG intake, if it was combined with high LYS intake, instead of low LYS intake (P = 0·03). No associations were found in boys.

Conclusion In prepubertal girls, linear growth may be influenced by habitual ARG intake and body fat gain may be relatively prevented over time by the intake of the amino acids ARG and LYS.

(Received January 19 2009)

(Accepted August 04 2009)

(Online publication September 17 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email