Effect of Increased Dietary Protein on the Plasma Methyl-Cycle Amino Acid Profile and Kinetics during Pregnancy


  • St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Division of Nutrition, St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India
  • St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India
  • St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India


Low intakes of quality dietary protein could affect the methionine cycle during pregnancy, which is important for fetal growth and epigenetic regulations. Since low quality protein intake is prevalent in India, it is important to define biomarkers of the low protein intake, specifically of methyl cycle homeostasis. A secondary analysis of data was performed, from a randomized intervention trial with 500 ml milk/d on south Indian pregnant women, to examine the association of dietary protein intake with concentrations of specific amino acids (methionine, glycine and serine). The subjects also underwent isotopic infusions (n = 52) for the measurement of amino acid kinetics. Dietary intakes were measured each week by multiple 24 h recall until delivery. The plasma concentrations of amino acids (methionine, serine and glycine) were compared with kinetics of methionine i.e. transmethylation, remethylation and transulfuration (TM, RM, TS) and serine to glycine conversion rates, as measured by stable isotope labeled amino acid infusion. Dietary protein intake in the 3rd trimester correlated positively with intakes of milk and milk based food products (ρ=0.52, p<0.001) and methionine (ρ=0.97, p<0.001) and with gestational weight gain (GWG, ρ=0.32, p=0.044). While the methionine concentration did not correlate with methyl cycle flux parameters (TM, RM and TS), the plasma concentrations of conditionally essential serine and glycine were positively correlated with their respective flux rate and with RM, TM and TS rates. Further, glycine concentrations specifically correlated positively with serine to glycine conversion rates (ρ=0.32, p=0.027). Dietary protein and methionine supply are important for the conservation of methionine during pregnancy. This had an effect on GWG, but not on birth weight, though this may have been due to the relatively small sample size. The plasma concentration of glycine was correlated with the serine-glycine conversion, which affords methyl groups for the body and supplies these when dietary protein/methionine is in poor supply. This indicates that itcan act as a biomarker of the serine-glycine conversion flux rate, which increases in the presence of a poor protein supply. In general, the plasma concentrations of these conditionally essential amino acids may be biomarkers of the methyl cycle during pregnancy, but this needs to be tested in a larger sample.


Amino Acid Kinetics, Maternal Protein Intake, Glycine, Serine, Methionine Cycle, Pregnancy.

Subject Discipline

Alternative Medicine

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