British Journal of Nutrition

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Section Three: Dietary protein quality assessment: Amino acid analysis, determination of amino acid digestibility and availability for humans and implications to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)

Criteria and markers for protein quality assessment – a review

Daniel Tome 

AgroParisTech, Department of Life Sciences and Health, UMR 914 Nutrition physiology and ingestive behavior, 16 rue Claude Bernard 75005 Paris, France

Abstract

Dietary proteins are found in animal products, plant products and single-cell organisms. Proteins are present in variable proportions in these different food sources and the different proteins also differ in their amino acid composition, dietary indispensable amino acid content and physico-chemical properties. Different criteria can be used to define dietary protein requirements and different markers can be used to assess nutritional protein quality according to the criteria used for protein requirement estimation. The current approach to determining protein requirements is related to nitrogen balance and the dietary indispensable amino acid score approach relates protein quality to the capacity of protein to allow reaching nitrogen balance by providing nitrogen and indispensable amino acids. A second approach considers more directly protein nitrogen utilization by the body and includes measurement of protein digestibility and of the efficiency of dietary nitrogen retention at maintenance or for protein deposition at the whole body level or in more specific body areas. Another approach is related to protein turnover and protein synthesis in relation to maintenance and/or efficiency for deposition or development (growth) at the whole body level or for different and more specific target tissues such as muscle or bone. Lastly, protein quality can also be evaluated from different markers used as risk factors for metabolic dysfunction and disorders related for instance to insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity or cardio-vascular disease. The accuracy and relevance of these different approaches is discussed regarding the capacity of the different protein sources (i.e. animal as meat, milk or eggs, legume as soya or pea, or cereal as wheat or rice) to satisfy protein requirements according to these different criteria and markers.

(Received August 11 2011)

(Revised October 27 2011)

(Accepted October 28 2011)

Correspondence:

Corresponding author: D. Tome, fax +33144087248, email tome@agroparistech.fr

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