Both 1-methylhistidine and 3-methylhistidine are histidine metabolites which have been proposed as markers of meat intake. Note that some confusion exists in the literature regarding the numbering of atoms in the imidazole ring of histidine – 1 versus 3 – and thus, there is caution with interpretation and clinical significance of these two markers.
3-methylhistidine is a constituent of actin and myosin, the contractile proteins of skeletal muscles. Urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine may be a result of muscle breakdown or consumption of meat fibers. Unlike 1-methylhistidine, 3-methylhistidine has been shown to increase in fasting states indicating catabolism of muscle tissue. Therefore, this marker is more variable with regards to animal protein consumption.
- Cheung W, Keski-Rahkonen P, Assi N, et al. A metabolomic study of biomarkers of meat and fish intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(3):600-608.
- Sjolin J, Hjort G, Friman G, Hambraeus L. Urinary excretion of 1-methylhistidine: a qualitative indicator of exogenous 3-methylhistidine and intake of meats from various sources. Metab: Clin Exp. 1987;36(12):1175-1184.
- Cuparencu C, Pratico G, Hemeryck LY, et al. Biomarkers of meat and seafood intake: an extensive literature review. Genes Nutr. 2019;14:35.
3-methylhistidine is lower with low protein diets, or in vegetarian and vegan diets.
Urine and plasma levels of 3-methylhistidine can be higher with meat consumption.46,208 And, as noted above, elevations have been seen in catabolism or fasting states.
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