Animal models for determining amino acid digestibility in humans - a review

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S273-81. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002346.


Animal models have been commonly used for determining amino acid digestibility in humans. This allows digestibility assays to be undertaken more efficiently than those undertaken using humans directly. The laboratory rat, usually considered as a suitable animal model, has been widely used, especially as the rat is easy to raise and relatively inexpensive to house. Although more technically demanding, the pig has also been promoted as a useful model for human nutrition studies. It may be a better model than the rat, as it is a meal eater, its upper digestive tract is anatomically and physiologically closer to that of humans and it eats most foods consumed by humans. Amino acid digestibility may be determined either at the faecal or the ileal level, the latter being considered the most accurate. This contribution evaluates the suitability of the rat and pig as animal models for assessing ileal and faecal amino acid digestibility in humans. The drawbacks and advantages of using these animal models are discussed. The review is based mainly on results from controlled studies comparing both species; however, as the number of these studies is limited, data from indirect comparisons also provide insight.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Colon / metabolism*
  • Diet*
  • Digestion*
  • Feces*
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism*
  • Models, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Swine


  • Amino Acids