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J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11):3340-8.

Long-term effects of histidine depletion on whole-body protein metabolism in healthy adults.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences and. Paediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 3E2.


The essentiality of histidine in healthy adults is a controversial topic. To study the potential metabolic effects of a lack of exogenous histidine, four healthy adults consumed a histidine-free diet, with adequate energy and 1.0 g/(kg. d) of an L-amino acid mixture for 48 d. Protein metabolism was monitored every 4 d by using indicator amino acid (L-[1-(13)C]phenylalanine) oxidation (in four subjects) and [(15)N]glycine (in one subject). Urine samples (24-h) were collected for measurement of urea, total nitrogen, creatinine, 3-methylhistidine (3-MH), histidine and beta-alanine. Albumin, transferrin and hematologic concentrations were measured on d 0, 24 and 48. Urinary excretion of nitrogen, urea, creatinine and 3-MH were not affected by the histidine-free diet. However, there was a significant (P < 0.001) linear decline (24-28%) in whole-body protein turnover. Significant (P < 0.05) decreases in albumin (12%), transferrin (17%) and hemoglobin (Hb) (11%) concentrations occurred slowly over the histidine depletion period. The urinary excretion of beta-alanine (an index of carnosine catabolism) generally increased in the smallest subject during the consumption of histidine-free diet. This study demonstrates that a lack of histidine in the diet for a prolonged period resulted in an accommodation of protein turnover and phenylalanine oxidation, measured by the (13)C-phenylalanine indicator amino acid. The extensive metabolic accommodation, together with decreases in Hb, albumin and transferrin during histidine depletion, leaves unresolved the issue of whether histidine is a dietary essential amino acid in healthy adults.

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