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Available versus digestible dietary amino acids

  • Shane M. Rutherfurd (a1) and Paul J. Moughan (a1)


Available amino acids are those absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract in a form suitable for body protein synthesis. True ileal digestible amino acids are determined based on the difference between dietary amino acid intake and unabsorbed dietary amino acids at the terminal ileum. The accuracy of ileal digestible amino acid estimates for predicting available amino acid content depends on several factors, including the accuracy of the amino acid analysis procedure. In heat processed foods, lysine can react with compounds to form nutritionally unavailable derivatives that are unstable during the hydrochloric acid hydrolysis step of amino acid analysis and can revert back to lysine causing an overestimate of available lysine. Recently, the true ileal digestible reactive (available) lysine assay based on guanidination has provided a means of accurately determining available lysine in processed foods. Methionine can be oxidised during processing to form methionine sulphoxide and methionine sulphone and cysteine oxidised to cysteic acid. Methionine sulphoxide, but not methionine sulphone or cysteic acid, is partially nutritionally available in some species of animal. Currently, methionine and cysteine are determined as methionine sulphone and cysteic acid respectively after quantitative oxidation prior to acid hydrolysis. Consequently, methionine and cysteine are overestimated if methionine sulphone or cysteic acid are present in the original material. Overall, given the problems associated with the analysis of some amino acids in processed foodstuffs, the available amino acid content may not always be accurately predicted by true ileal amino acid digestibility estimates. For such amino acids specific analytical strategies may be required.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: S. M. Rutherfurd, fax 64 6 350 5655, email


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