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Indian J Med Res. 2018 Nov;148(5):557-568. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1688_18.

Protein quality & amino acid requirements in relation to needs in India.

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Department of Physiology, St. John's Medical College, Bengaluru, India.
Division of Nutrition, St. John's Research Institute, Bengaluru, India.


The relevance of protein and its constituent amino acids (AAs) in the structure and function of the human body is well known. Accumulating evidence has conferred specific functional and regulatory roles for individual AAs, adding relevance to their requirements across different age groups. The methods for measuring AA requirements have progressed from the classical nitrogen balance to the current stable isotope-based AA balance methods. Requirements of most of the indispensable AA (IAA) have been estimated in healthy Indian population by the best available balance method and has shown to be higher than earlier 1985 WHO/FAO/UNU (World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization/United Nations University) recommendations. In addition, potential changes in the requirement, through adaptation to chronic undernutrition or to infection, have also been evaluated. In 2007, the WHO/FAO/UNU released a recommendation that increased the daily IAA requirement, based on primary evidence from Indian balance studies. This meant that to ensure that the new IAA requirements were met, individual foods or mixed diets needed to be assessed for their protein quality, or their ability to deliver the required amount of IAA. The recent FAO report on protein quality evaluation recommends the use of a new chemical AA score, the digestible IAA score (DIAAS), to replace the earlier protein digestibility corrected AA score. The DIAAS requires the determination of individual AA digestibility at the ileal level. A minimally invasive dual stable isotope tracer-based approach has been developed in India and has been used to determine digestibility of various foods in Indian adults and children. The increase in IAA requirements and subsequent protein quality requirements have implications for national regulatory frameworks, growth and development, and in turn, for economic and agricultural policy.


Amino acid requirement; digestible indispensable amino acid score; dual stable isotope tracer approach; ileal digestibility; protein quality

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