Advantages and limitations of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) as a method for evaluating protein quality in human diets

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S333-6. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002541.


PDCAAS is a widely used assay for evaluating protein quality. It is a chemical score, which is derived from the ratio between the first limiting amino acid in a test protein and the corresponding amino acid in a reference amino acid pattern and corrected for true faecal N digestibility. Chemical scores exceeding 100 % are truncated to 100 %. The advantages of the PDCAAS are its simplicity and direct relationship to human protein requirements. The limitations are as follows: the reference pattern is based on the minimum amino acid requirements for tissue growth and maintenance and does not necessarily reflect the optimum intake. Truncated PDCAAS of high-quality proteins do not give any information about the power of these proteins to compensate, as a supplement, for low levels of dietary essential amino acids in low-quality proteins. It is likely that faecal N digestibility does not take into account the loss from the colon of indispensable amino acids that were not absorbed in the ileum. Anti-nutritional factors, such as lectins and trypsin inhibitors, in several plant protein sources can cause heightened endogenous losses of amino acids, an issue which is particularly relevant in animal feedstuffs. The assumption that amino acid supplementation can completely restore biological efficiency of the protein source is incorrect since the kinetics of digestion and absorption between supplemented free amino acids and amino acids present in dietary proteins, are different.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Digestion*
  • Feces
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritive Value


  • Amino Acids
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Nitrogen