Protein Quality in Perspective: A Review of Protein Quality Metrics and Their Applications

Shiksha Adhikari, Marijke Schop, Imke J.M. de Boer, Thom Huppertz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


For design of healthy and sustainable diets and food systems, it is important to consider not only the quantity but also the quality of nutrients. This is particularly important for proteins, given the large variability in amino acid composition and digestibility between dietary proteins. This article reviews measurements and metrics in relation to protein quality, but also their application. Protein quality methods based on concentrations and digestibility of individual amino acids are preferred, because they do not only allow ranking of proteins, but also assessment of complementarity of protein sources, although this should be considered only at a meal level and not a diet level. Measurements based on ileal digestibility are preferred over those on faecal digestibility to overcome the risk of overestimation of protein quality. Integration of protein quality on a dietary level should also be done based on measurements on an individual amino acid basis. Effects of processing, which is applied to all foods, should be considered as it can also affect protein quality through effects on digestibility and amino acid modification. Overall, protein quality data are crucial for integration into healthy and sustainable diets, but care is needed in data selection, interpretation and integration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number947
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2022


  • Complementarity
  • Digestibility
  • Food processing
  • Indispensable amino acids
  • Protein quality


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