This prospective double blind randomised seven day crossover controlled clinical trial was carried out to determine whether enterally fed patients with moderately impaired gastrointestinal function require a predigested nitrogen (N) source compared with whole protein. Twelve malnourished patients with varying gastrointestinal abnormalities, who required enteral feeding, received 2.25 l of one of two isocaloric isonitrogenous enteral diets (1 kcal/ml, 4.8 g nitrogen/l) containing either predominantly medium chain peptides (tetra or higher peptides) or whole protein as the nitrogen source. Nitrogen absorption and balance were calculated from dietary intake and analysis of 24 hour total urinary and faecal nitrogen for the last five days of each study period. There was no significant difference in either stool weight (110 (SEM) (49) v 111 (32) g/d), nitrogen absorption (91 (2) v 89 (2)%) or nitrogen balance (+1.0 (1.3) v +0.6 (1.4) g nitrogen/d) between the peptide and whole protein nitrogen sources when all patients are considered. There was, however, evidence to suggest a nutritional advantage from administering an enteral diet whose nitrogen source comprises oligopeptides, rather than whole protein, to a subgroup of patients with small bowel disease.
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