The FAO Working Group report, Research approaches and methods for evaluating the protein quality of human foods, published last week, concluded that the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) method is "potentially recognizable at least by the Codex Alimentarius Commission."
It met in Bangalore, India in March 2014 with the aim of identifying "one or more experimental protocols" to enable the development of the DIAAS method.
The FAO recommended the DIAAS method as a replacement for the currently favoured Protein Digestibility Correct Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) in a 2013 report.
As detailed in their more recent report - dubbed the Bangalore Report - the FAO Working Group reiterated that DIAAS was "preferable" to PDCAAS as "the accepted protein and amino acid quality evaluation method."
It recognized, however, that "the complete value of DIAAS could not be realized until there are sufficient accumulated digestibility data for human foods as determined by competent national and or international authorities."
It would therefore "be advantageous if the method could be potentially recognized and accepted, as a minimum, by the Codex Alimentarius Commission," it said.
"This means that the method would gain wide acceptance and could be used potentially by food regulatory agencies in evaluating food health and nutrition claims by industry."
“Ultimately, the goal is to accumulate sufficient data to enable to practical change from the PDCAAS to the DIAAS approach for assessing the protein quality of human foods and diets," it added.
The DIAAS method measures the oro-ileal nitrogen balance by calculating the digestibility of individual amino acids in a section of the small intestine called the ileum.
PDCAAS, which came to the FAO's attention in 1989, instead uses crude faecal digestibility values to measure the oro-faecal nitrogen balance.
The PDCAAS method “includes contributions from intestinal secretions and colonic bacteria, thus underestimating the protein available for absorption,” said the FAO Working Group.
Using DIAAS, researchers found that dairy proteins could deliver up to 30% more amino acid than plant sources, such as soy isolates.
Unsurprisingly, the dairy sector welcomed the FAO findings and claimed that they demonstrate the "superiority of dairy proteins."
The European Natural Soyfoods Association (ENSA) said, meanwhile, that the finding was only meaningful for the malnourished.
In June 2014, Suzane Leser, head of nutrition at British protein specialist, Volac, told DairyReporter.com that five-years was a "reasonable time frame" for FAO to replace PDCAAS with DIAAS as its method of choice.