Ratio of Essential to Nonessential Amino Acids in Protein

Protein requirements diminish from infancy on (Iabje..2,13) because rates of accretion of new protein diminish with maturity. However, when the changes in requirements for essential amino acids in Iabje 2,14 are compared with the total protein requirements in IabJ.e...2,1.3 with age, a greater drop with age is seen in essential amino acid requirements than in protein requirements. Essential amino acids make up more than 30% of protein requirements in infancy and early childhood and drop to 20% in later childhood and 11% in adulthood. As essential amino acids become a decreasingly important part of the amino acid requirements with age, nonessential amino acid intake could increase and become an increasingly greater proportion of our intake. However, such substitution does not necessarily happen. Except for possibly changing the type of protein eaten (e.g., decreased intake of milk proteins), we continue to eat protein presumably at or above the RDA. If that protein is of high quality, such as egg protein, it provides almost half of its amino acids as essential amino acids. Therefore, consumption of high-quality protein by adults at levels that meet the RDA for protein provide a severalfold excess of individual essential amino acids beyond requirements. In general, it is not hard for adults to meet the minimum for essential amino acid intake, as recommended or as proposed by Young (165), when protein is consumed at or above requirement.

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