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Keywords:

  • creatinine;
  • meat-free diet;
  • 3-methylhistidine;
  • renal failure

Urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine has been proposed as an index of internal protein breakdown provided that the intake of exogenous 3-methylhistidine (meat) is excluded. To evaluate the potential use of 3-methylhistidine in the metabolic assessment of patients with advanced renal failure, we studied a group of 11 patients with markedly reduced renal function who were put on a meat-free diet (the protein intake was kept constant). Steady-state plasma concentration and urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine were not achieved until 14 d after exclusion of meat from the diet. At that time the plasma concentration and urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine had decreased by 43% and 60%, respectively. We conclude that the delay in reaching steady state makes the clinical use of urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine in patients with advanced renal failure unpracticable as an index of protein breakdown. The exclusion of meat also resulted in a continuous decrease in the plasma level and urinary excretion of creatinine, with the result that plasma creatinine or its reciprocal become misleading for evaluation of changes in renal function until a new steady state has been reached.