Assessment of Protein Quality

Metabolic Studies

The most accurate assessment of protein quality of foods for humans is through clinical or metabolic studies that measure nitrogen balance. A fixed amount of protein is fed to a group of individuals until a steady state is reached. At that point, excreta are collected and analyzed for their nitrogen content, and integumental nitrogen losses are generally estimated at approximately 5mgNkg—1 to calculate NB as follows: NB = iN — UN — FN — IntegN (See abbreviations in Table 1). Measurements are repeated with different amounts of food protein and the relationship between nitrogen intake and nitrogen balance is evaluated (Figure 1). The slope of the line before NB reaches a plateau and the amount of dietary protein needed to attain ''0'' nitrogen balance are indicators of protein quality: The steeper the slope and the lower the amount of dietary protein to achieve balance, the higher the quality of the protein being tested.

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