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Open Access Review

Dietary requirements of synthesizable amino acids by animals: a paradigm shift in protein nutrition

Guoyao Wu

Author Affiliations

Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843, USA

Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 2014, 5:34  doi:10.1186/2049-1891-5-34

Published: 14 June 2014

Abstract

Amino acids are building blocks for proteins in all animals. Based on growth or nitrogen balance, amino acids were traditionally classified as nutritionally essential or nonessential for mammals, birds and fish. It was assumed that all the “nutritionally nonessential amino acids (NEAA)” were synthesized sufficiently in the body to meet the needs for maximal growth and optimal health. However, careful analysis of the scientific literature reveals that over the past century there has not been compelling experimental evidence to support this assumption. NEAA (e.g., glutamine, glutamate, proline, glycine and arginine) play important roles in regulating gene expression, cell signaling, antioxidative responses, fertility, neurotransmission, and immunity. Additionally, glutamate, glutamine and aspartate are major metabolic fuels for the small intestine to maintain its digestive function and to protect the integrity of the intestinal mucosa. Thus, diets for animals must contain all NEAA to optimize their survival, growth, development, reproduction, and health. Furthermore, NEAA should be taken into consideration in revising the “ideal protein” concept that is currently used to formulate swine and poultry diets. Adequate provision of all amino acids (including NEAA) in diets enhances the efficiency of animal production. In this regard, amino acids should not be classified as nutritionally essential or nonessential in animal or human nutrition. The new Texas A&M University’s optimal ratios of dietary amino acids for swine and chickens are expected to beneficially reduce dietary protein content and improve the efficiency of their nutrient utilization, growth, and production performance.

Keywords:
Diet; Metabolism; Nutrition; Protein; Requirements