Based on growth or nitrogen balance, amino acids (AA) had traditionally been classified as nutritionally essential (indispensable) or non-essential (dispensable) for animals and humans. Nutritionally essential AA (EAA) are defined as either those AA whose carbon skeletons cannot be synthesized de novo in animal cells or those that normally are insufficiently synthesized de novo by the animal organism relative to its needs for maintenance, growth, development, and health and which must be provided in the diet to meet requirements. In contrast, nutritionally non-essential AA (NEAA) are those AA which can be synthesized de novo in adequate amounts by the animal organism to meet requirements for maintenance, growth, development, and health and, therefore, need not be provided in the diet. Although EAA and NEAA had been described for over a century, there are no compelling data to substantiate the assumption that NEAA are synthesized sufficiently in animals and humans to meet the needs for maximal growth and optimal health. NEAA play important roles in regulating gene expression, cell signaling pathways, digestion and absorption of dietary nutrients, DNA and protein synthesis, proteolysis, metabolism of glucose and lipids, endocrine status, men and women fertility, acid-base balance, antioxidative responses, detoxification of xenobiotics and endogenous metabolites, neurotransmission, and immunity. Emerging evidence indicates dietary essentiality of "nutritionally non-essential amino acids" for animals and humans to achieve their full genetic potential for growth, development, reproduction, lactation, and resistance to metabolic and infectious diseases. This concept represents a new paradigm shift in protein nutrition to guide the feeding of mammals (including livestock), poultry, and fish.
Keywords: Amino acids; animals; humans; nutrition; requirement.
© 2015 by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.