The carbon isotope ratios (CIRs) of individual amino acids (AAs) may provide more sensitive and specific biomarkers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) than total tissue CIR. Because CIRs turn over slowly, long-term controlled-feeding studies are needed in their evaluation.
We assessed the responses of plasma and RBC CIRAA’s to SSB and meat intake in a 12-wk inpatient feeding study.
Thirty-two men (aged 46.2 ± 10.5 y) completed the feeding study at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Phoenix, Arizona. The effects of SSB, meat, and fish intake on plasma and RBC CIRAA’s were evaluated in a balanced factorial design with each dietary variable either present or absent in a common weight-maintaining, macronutrient-balanced diet. Fasting blood samples were collected biweekly from baseline. Dietary effects on the postfeeding CIR of 5 nonessential AAs (CIRNEAA’s) and 4 essential AAs (CIREAA’s) were analyzed using multivariable regression.
In plasma, 4 of 5 CIRNEAA’s increased with SSB intake. Of these, the CIRAla was the most sensitive (β = 2.81, SE = 0.38) to SSB intake and was not affected by meat or fish intake. In RBCs, all 5 CIRNEAA’s increased with SSBs but had smaller effect sizes than in plasma. All plasma CIREAA’s increased with meat intake (but not SSB or fish intake), and the CIRLeu was the most sensitive (β = 1.26, SE = 0.23). CIRs of leucine and valine also increased with meat intake in RBCs. Estimates of turnover suggest that CIRAA’s in plasma, but not RBCs, were in equilibrium with the diets by the end of the study.
The results of this study in men support CIRNEAA’s as potential biomarkers of SSB intake and suggest CIREAA’s as potential biomarkers of meat intake in US diets. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01237093 as NCT01237093.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.