Animal Proteins as Important Contributors to a Healthy Human Diet

Annu Rev Anim Biosci. 2017 Feb 8:5:111-131. doi: 10.1146/annurev-animal-022516-022943. Epub 2016 Oct 28.


Adequate protein intake is critical for health and development. Generally, protein of animal origin is of higher quality for humans owing to its amino acid pattern and good digestibility. When administered in mixtures it can enhance the quality of plant proteins, but its availability is often low in low-income communities, especially in young children, the elderly, and pregnant and lactating women, who have increased requirements and in whom high-quality protein also stimulates (bone) growth and maintenance. Although high protein intake was associated with increased type 2 diabetes mellitus risk, milk and seafood are good sources of branched chain amino acids and taurine, which act beneficially on glucose metabolism and blood pressure. However, high consumption of protein-rich animal food is also associated with adverse health effects and higher risk for noncommunicable diseases, partly related to other components of these foods, like saturated fatty acids and potential carcinogens in processed meat but also the atherogenic methionine metabolite homocysteine. In moderation, however, animal proteins are especially important for health maintenance in vulnerable persons.

Keywords: amino acids; animal; noncommunicable diseases; protein; quality; requirements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / standards
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Meat*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Pregnancy


  • Dietary Proteins