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Br J Nutr. 2013 Sep 14;110(5):810-22. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512005788. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Identification of biomarkers for intake of protein from meat, dairy products and grains: a controlled dietary intervention study.

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Top Institute Food and Nutrition, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


In the present controlled, randomised, multiple cross-over dietary intervention study, we aimed to identify potential biomarkers for dietary protein from dairy products, meat and grain, which could be useful to estimate intake of these protein types in epidemiological studies. After 9 d run-in, thirty men and seventeen women (22 (SD 4) years) received three high-protein diets (aimed at approximately 18% of energy (en%)) in random order for 1 week each, with approximately 14 en% originating from either meat, dairy products or grain. We used a two-step approach to identify biomarkers in urine and plasma. With principal component discriminant analysis, we identified amino acids (AA) from the plasma or urinary AA profile that were distinctive between diets. Subsequently, after pooling total study data, we applied mixed models to estimate the predictive value of those AA for intake of protein types. A very good prediction could be made for the intake of meat protein by a regression model that included urinary carnosine, 1-methylhistidine and 3-methylhistidine (98% of variation in intake explained). Furthermore, for dietary grain protein, a model that included seven AA (plasma lysine, valine, threonine, α-aminobutyric acid, proline, ornithine and arginine) made a good prediction (75% of variation explained). We could not identify biomarkers for dairy protein intake. In conclusion, specific combinations of urinary and plasma AA may be potentially useful biomarkers for meat and grain protein intake, respectively. These findings need to be cross-validated in other dietary intervention studies.

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