Amino Acid Absorption in the Large Intestine of Humans and Porcine Models

J Nutr. 2017 Aug;147(8):1493-1498. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.248187. Epub 2017 Jun 14.


Dietary protein quality has been recognized as a critical issue by international authorities because it can affect important functions of the body. To predict protein quality, the FAO introduced the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score. This score depends on ileal amino acid (AA) digestibility; therefore, the assumption is made that AAs are not absorbed in nutritionally relevant amounts from the large intestine. This article reviews the evidence for this assumption by considering the role of the mammalian large intestine in dietary protein and AA digestion and absorption, with particular reference to adult humans. Although most dietary AAs and peptides are absorbed in the small intestine, substantial amounts can enter the large intestine. Nitrogen is absorbed in the large intestine, and a series of animal experiments indicate a potential small degree of AA absorption. In humans, colonocytes have the capacity for AA absorption because AA transporters are present in the large intestine. The absorption of nutritionally relevant amounts of dietary indispensable AAs and peptides in the human large intestine has not been convincingly demonstrated, however.

Keywords: Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score; absorption; amino acid; digestion; large intestine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / metabolism*
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Essential / pharmacokinetics*
  • Animals
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dietary Proteins / standards
  • Digestion*
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestine, Large / metabolism*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Swine


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Nitrogen