Amino acid composition of human milk is not unique

J Nutr. 1994 Jul;124(7):1126-32. doi: 10.1093/jn/124.7.1126.


To determine whether the amino acid pattern of human milk is unique, we compared the amino acid pattern of human milk with the amino acid patterns of the milks of great apes (chimpanzee and gorilla), lower primates (baboon and rhesus monkey) and nonprimates (cow, goat, sheep, llama, pig, horse, elephant, cat and rat). Amino acid pattern was defined as the relative proportion of each amino acid (protein-bound plus free) (in mg) to the total amino acids (in g). Total amino acid concentration was lower in primate milk than in nonprimate milk. There were commonalities in the overall amino acid pattern of the milks of all species sampled; the most abundant amino acids were glutamate (plus glutamine, 20%), proline (10%) and leucine (10%). Essential amino acids were 40%, branched-chain amino acids 20%, and sulfur amino acids 4% of the total amino acids. The amino acid pattern of human milk was more similar to those of great apes than to those of lower primates. For example, cystine was higher and methionine was lower in primate milks than in nonprimate milks, and in great ape and human milks than in lower primate milks. Because the milk amino acid patterns of the human and elephant, both slow-growing species, were dissimilar, the amino acid pattern of human milk seems unrelated to growth rate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Camelids, New World
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Elephants
  • Female
  • Goats
  • Gorilla gorilla
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Papio
  • Rats
  • Sheep
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine


  • Amino Acids