Histidine is a nutritionally essential amino acid with many recognized benefits to human health, while circulating concentrations of histidine decline in pathologic conditions [e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD)]. The purpose of this review is to examine the existing literature regarding the benefits of histidine intake, the adverse effects of excess histidine, and the upper tolerance level for histidine. Supplementation with doses of 4.0-4.5 g histidine/d and increased dietary histidine intake are associated with decreased BMI, adiposity, markers of glucose homeostasis (e.g., HOMA-IR, fasting blood glucose, 2-h postprandial blood glucose), proinflammatory cytokines, and oxidative stress. It is unclear from the limited number of studies in humans whether the improvements in glucoregulatory markers, inflammation, and oxidative stress are due to reduced BMI and adiposity, increased carnosine (a metabolic product of histidine with antioxidant effects), or both. Histidine intake also improves cognitive function (e.g., reduces appetite, anxiety, and stress responses and improves sleep) potentially through the metabolism of histidine to histamine; however, this relation is ambiguous in humans. At high intakes of histidine (>24 g/d), studies report adverse effects of histidine such as decreased serum zinc and cognitive impairment. There is limited research on the effects of histidine intake at doses between 4.5 and 24 g/d, and thus, a tolerable upper level has not been established. Determining tolerance to histidine supplementation has been limited by small sample sizes and, more important, a lack of a clear biomarker for histidine supplementation. The U-shaped curve of circulating zinc concentrations with histidine supplementation could be exploited as a relevant biomarker for supplemental histidine tolerance. Histidine is an important amino acid and may be necessary as a supplement in some populations; however, gaps in knowledge, which this review highlights, need to be addressed scientifically.
Keywords: adverse effects; amino acid benefits; healthy humans; histidine supplementation; tolerance.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.