In vivo determination of amino acid bioavailability in humans and model animals

J AOAC Int. May-Jun 2005;88(3):923-34.


Because the digestion of many dietary proteins is incomplete, and because there is a continuous (but variable) entry into the intestinal lumen of endogenous protein and amino acid nitrogen that is also subject to digestion, the fluxes of nitrogen, amino acids, and protein in the gut exhibit a rather complicated pattern. Methods to distinguish and quantitate the endogenous and dietary components of nitrogen and amino acids in ileal chyme or feces include the use of a protein-free diet, the enzyme-hydrolyzed protein method, different levels of protein intake, multiple regression methods, and stable-isotope labelling of endogenous or exogenous amino acids. Assessment of bioavailability can be made, with varying degrees of difficulty, in man directly but, for routine evaluation of foods, the use of model animals is attractive for several reasons, the main ones being cost and time. Various animals and birds have been proposed as models for man but, in determining their suitability as a model, their physiological, enzymological, and microbiological differences must be considered. Fecal or ileal digestibility measurements, as well as apparent and true nitrogen and amino acid digestibility measurements, have very different nutritional significance and can, thus, be used for different objectives. Measurements at the ileal level are critical for determining amino acid losses of both dietary and endogenous origin, whereas measurements at the fecal level are critical in assessing whole-body nitrogen losses. A complementary and still unresolved aspect is to take into account the recycling of intestinal nitrogen and bacterial amino acids to the body.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Amino Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biological Availability
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Digestion
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Rats
  • Regression Analysis
  • Swine


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Nitrogen