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Hair protein and amino acid 13C and 15N abundances take more than 4 weeks to clearly prove influences of animal protein intake in young women with a habitual daily protein consumption of more than 1 g per kg body weight


  • Klaus J. Petzke,

    Corresponding author
    1. German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE), Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114–116, D-14558 Nuthetal, Germany
    • Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung (German Institute of Human Nutrition), Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114–116, D-14558 Nuthetal, Germany.
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  • Susen Lemke

    1. German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE), Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114–116, D-14558 Nuthetal, Germany
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  • Presented in part at Experimental Biology, San Diego, CA, USA, April 5–9, 2008, and at the 2nd Joint European Stable Isotope User Meeting (JESIUM), Presqu'île de Giens, France, 31 August–5 September, 2008.


A high protein or meat intake might be a risk factor for metabolic disorders. Stable isotopic abundances (SIA) of hair can be used as biomarkers for animal protein intake due to characteristic isotopic patterns of food proteins. We investigated if an additional meat intake (M, 200 g pork fillet/day) or an omission of meat and meat products (NOM) can influence the natural 15N and 13C SIA within 4 weeks in hair and plasma of young women. The daily protein intake (means ± SD) was 1.40 ± 0.29, 2.25 ± 0.35, and 1.15 ± 0.26 g/kg at baseline, during M, and during NOM, respectively. At baseline the animal protein intake correlated with bulk SIA of hair (15N: R2 = 0.416; 13C: R2 = 0.664; n = 14). However, isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) analyses have not shown that hair and plasma SIA were changed significantly after M or NOM. Possible reasons were discussed. Urinary SIA were significantly lower after M than after NOM (15N: p = 0.039; 13C: p = 0.006) and close to those of pork fillet. Characteristic patterns of SIA were measured in individual amino acids (AA) by gas chromatography/combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS). The results confirmed considerable differences in SIA between AA (δ15N, up to 22‰; δ13C, up to 31‰). Plots of 15N versus 13C abundances in hair revealed characteristic differences between indispensable and dispensable AA. The intervention-dependent changes of AA-specific SIA were not as clear as expected. Although the AA-specific SIA may reveal more detailed characteristics of physiological conditions, further methodological research is required. We suggest that the SIA of leucine can be potential markers of protein intake. The reliability of SIA as biomarkers of protein intake still have to be tested in longer lasting intervention studies in humans. The results may have implications in the assessment for possible benefits and risks of protein consumption. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.