The effect of feeding rats purified cowpea (Vigna unguiculata Walp.) trypsin (EC 188.8.131.52) inhibitor in a semi-synthetic high-quality diet based on lactalbumin (10 g inhibitor/kg) for 10 d was a moderate reduction in the weight gain of rats in comparison with controls, despite an identical food intake in the two groups. The reduction in the growth rate was about 20% on a live weight basis. However, the corresponding value calculated from the weight of dry carcasses was less, only about 7%, probably because the water content of the body of the two groups of rats was different. Although most of the cowpea trypsin inhibitor (CpTI) was rapidly broken down in the digestive tract, its inclusion in the diet led to a slight, though significant, increase in the nitrogen content of faeces but not of urine. Accordingly, the net protein utilization of rats fed on inhibitor-containing diets was also slightly depressed while their energy expenditure was elevated. In agreement with results obtained for the protease inhibitors of soya bean, the slight anti-nutritional effects of CpTI were probably due mainly to the stimulation of the growth and metabolism of the pancreas. Thus, the nutritional penalty for increased insect-resistance after the transfer of the cowpea trypsin inhibitor gene into food plants is slight in the short-term.