Recent advances in determining protein and amino acid requirements in humans

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug:108 Suppl 2:S22-30. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002504.


During the past 25 years a significant amount of research has been conducted to determine amino acid requirements in humans. This is primarily due to advancements in the application of stable isotopes to examine amino acid requirements. The indicator amino acid oxidation (IAAO) method has emerged as a robust and minimally invasive technique to identify requirements. The IAAO method is based on the concept that when one indispensable dietary amino acid (IDAA) is deficient for protein synthesis, then the excess of all other IDAA, including the indicator amino acid, will be oxidized. With increasing intakes of the limiting amino acid, IAAO will decrease, reflecting increasing incorporation into protein. Once the requirement for the limiting amino acid is met there will be no further change in the indicator oxidation. The IAAO method has been systematically applied to determine most IDAA requirements in adults. The estimates are comparable to the values obtained using the more elaborate 24h-indicator amino acid oxidation and balance (24h-IAAO/IAAB) model. Due to its non-invasive nature the IAAO method has also been used to determine requirements for amino acids in neonates, children and in disease. The IAAO model has recently been applied to determine total protein requirements in humans. The IAAO method is rapid, reliable and has been used to determine amino acid requirements in different species, across the life cycle and in disease. The recent application of IAAO to determine protein requirements in humans is novel and has significant implications for dietary protein intake recommendations globally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Child
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Models, Biological
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Amino Acids
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Indicators and Reagents