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Br J Nutr. 2004 Aug;92 Suppl 1:S27-30.

Protein, amino acids and the control of food intake.

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Unité INRA 914 Physiologie de la Nutrition et du Comportement Alimentaire, Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon, 16, rue Claude Bernard, 75231 Paris cedex 05, France.


The influence of protein and amino acid on the control of food intake and the specific control of protein and amino acid intakes remains incompletely understood. The most commonly accepted conclusions are: (1) the existence of an aversive response to diets deficient in or devoid of protein or deficient in at least one essential amino acid; (2) the existence of a mechanism that enables attainment of the minimum requirement for N and essential amino acids by increasing intake of a low-protein diet; (3) a decrease in the intake of a high-protein diet is associated with different processes, including the high satiating effect of protein. Ingested proteins are believed to generate pre- and post-absorptive signals that contribute to the control of gastric kinetics, pancreatic secretion and food intake. At the brain level, two major afferent pathways are involved in protein and amino acid monitoring: the indirect neuro-mediated (mainly vagus-mediated) pathway and the direct blood pathway. The neuro-mediated pathway transfers pre-absorptive and visceral information. This information is for the main part transferred through the vagus nerve that innervates part of the oro-sensory zone: the stomach, the duodenum and the liver. Other information is directly monitored in the blood. It is likely that the system responds precisely when protein and essential amino acid intake is inadequate, but in contrast allows a large range of adaptive capacities through amino acid degradation and substrate interconversion.

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