Branched-chain amino acid requirements in healthy adult human subjects

J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):256S-63S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.256S.


There is now an expanding body of evidence to recommend, in the case of adult humans, the use of revised indispensable amino acid requirement values; these are approximately 2 to 3 times higher than the current international recommendations. The earlier methodologies for determining amino acid requirements, based on nitrogen balance, were criticized because of their design and the associated high energy intakes. The 1985 World Health Organization/Food & Agriculture Organization/United Nations University requirement for leucine has been demonstrated to be too low by short- and long-term (24-h) tracer-derived estimates of leucine oxidation and balance. The best values for leucine requirements come from 24-h direct amino acid oxidation (DAAO) and direct amino acid balance (DAAB) studies. Finally, we also collated all available data from studies on fed-state leucine oxidation with an adequate dietary adaptation period to assess the inflection on the leucine oxidation-leucine intake curve. The mean requirements for leucine, valine, and isoleucine are likely to be 40, 17-25, and 19 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1), respectively. This adds up to a total of approximately 84 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1), which is much lower than the lowest estimate of the total BCAA requirement of approximately 110 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1) made by the short-term indicator amino acid oxidation (IAAO) method, which determined the BCAA requirement from the pattern of oxidation of an indicator amino acid (phenylyalanine) at different levels of BCAA intake. An additional estimate of the leucine requirement was also made by a meta-analysis of all available 24-h DAAO/DAAB data from different studies. This resulted in a higher value for the leucine requirement than that obtained by the specific studies that utilized the 24-h DAAO/DAAB approach; however, even adding this value to the total BCAA requirement does not account for the difference in the total BCAA requirement estimates and the summed individual BCAA estimates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoleucine / metabolism
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Valine / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Valine