The total branched-chain amino acid requirement in young healthy adult men determined by indicator amino acid oxidation by use of L-[1-13C]phenylalanine

J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1383-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1383.


Previous recommendations for branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), based on nitrogen balance studies, were found to be low in a series of stable isotope-labeled amino acid studies. The BCAA requirement was increased in the new dietary reference intake (DRI) report on the basis of a series of stable isotope studies examining the requirement of leucine and valine individually, but not isoleucine. To reduce the possibility of interactions among these amino acids and imbalances in the mixture affecting the estimate of requirements, we decided to determine the requirement for the total BCAA of young healthy adult men, receiving a mixture of BCAA based on the proportion of these amino acids in egg protein, by use of indicator amino acid oxidation. Seven men were assigned to receive nine graded intakes of a BCAA mixture in random order: 34, 50, 66, 80, 100, 120, 140, 160 and 180 mg/(kg. d). The rate of release of (13)CO(2) from the oxidation of L-[1-(13)C]phenylalanine (F (13)CO(2)) was measured and a two-phase linear regression crossover model was applied to determine total BCAA requirement. The mean requirement and population-safe level (upper limit of 95% confidence interval) of the total BCAA were 144 and 210 mg/(kg. d), respectively. Based on the balance of BCAA in egg protein, our estimate for the mean leucine requirement is 55 mg/(kg. d), which is substantially higher than the 34 mg/(kg. d) recommended by the DRI.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism*
  • Body Composition
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Energy Intake
  • Humans
  • Isoleucine / metabolism
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Phenylalanine / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • Valine / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Isoleucine
  • Tyrosine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Nitrogen