Protein quality evaluation twenty years after the introduction of the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score method

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug:108 Suppl 2:S183-211. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002309.


In 1989 the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Protein Quality Evaluation recommended the use of the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) method for evaluating protein quality. In calculating PDCAAS, the limiting amino acid score (i.e., ratio of first limiting amino acid in a gram of target food to that in a reference protein or requirement) is multiplied by protein digestibility. The PDCAAS method has now been in use for 20 years. Research emerging during this time has provided useful data on various aspects of protein quality evaluation that has made a review of the current methods used in assessing protein quality necessary. This paper provides an overview of the use of the PDCAAS method as compared to other methods and addresses some of the key challenges that remain in regards to protein quality evaluation. Furthermore, specific factors influencing protein quality including the effects of processing conditions and preparation methods are presented. Protein quality evaluation methods and recommended protein intakes currently used in different countries vis-à-vis the WHO/FAO/UNU standards are further provided. As foods are frequently consumed in complement with other foods, the significance of the PDCAAS of single protein sources may not be evident, thus, protein quality of some key food groups and challenges surrounding the calculation of the amino acid score for dietary protein mixtures are further discussed. As results from new research emerge, recommendations may need to be updated or revised to maintain relevance of methods used in calculating protein quality.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Essential / analysis*
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Digestion*
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritive Value


  • Amino Acids
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins