Data from: Body macronutrient composition is predicted by lipid and not protein content of the diet

  • Joshua P. Moatt (Creator)
  • Catherine Hambly (Creator)
  • Elizabeth Heap (Creator)
  • Anna Kramer (Creator)
  • Fiona Moon (Creator)
  • John Speakman (Creator)
  • Craig A. Walling (Creator)



1. Diet is an important determinant of fitness related traits including growth, reproduction and survival. Recent work suggests that variation in protein : lipid ratio, particularly the amount of protein, in the diet is a key nutritional parameter. However, the traits that mediate the link between dietary macronutrient ratio and fitness related traits are less well understood. An obvious candidate is body composition, given its well-known link to health.

2. Here we investigate the relationship between dietary and body macronutrient composition using a freshwater fish, the three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Carbohydrate is relatively unimportant in the diet of predatory fish, facilitating the exploration of how dietary protein to lipid ratio affects their relative deposition in the body.

3. We find a significant effect of lipid intake, rather than protein, on body protein : lipid ratio. This was not a result of absorbing macronutrients in relation to their relative abundance in the diet, as the carcass protein : lipid ratios differed from those of the diets, with ratios usually lower in the body than in the diet. This indicates that individuals can moderate their utilisation, or uptake, of ingested macronutrients to reach a target balance within the body.

4. We found no effect of diet on swimming endurance, activity or testes size. However, there was an effect of weight on testes size, with larger males having larger testes.

5. Our results provide evidence for the adjustment of body protein : lipid ratio away from that of the diet. As lipid intake was the key determinant of body composition, we suggest this occurs via metabolism of excess protein, conflicting with the predictions of the protein leverage hypothesis. These results could imply that the conversion and excretion of protein is one of the causes of the survival costs associated with high protein diets.

Data type

Moatt et al Data_S1: Data file for body composition and testes mass
Moatt et al Data_S2: Data file for growth data
Moatt et al Data_S3: Data file for activity measures
Moatt et al Data_S4: Data file for swimming endurance measures
Dialog S1: Word document explaining Data files S1-S4
Moatt et al Script: R script for full analysis

Copyright and Open Data Licencing

This work is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license.
Date made available29 Sept 2018
PublisherDryad Digital Repository


  • body composition
  • Dietary restriction
  • Fat Storage
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Nutrition

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