1. Nτ-Methylhistidine, nitrogen and creatinine were measured in the urine of 10 volunteers on normal and meat-free diets and in 10 vegetarians, and compared with the results from the urine of eight patients with intestinal fistulae on intravenous or enteral nutrition containing no meat. The values obtained were used to calculate fractional breakdown rate of myofibrillar protein.
2. There was a significant fall in the excretion of Nτ-methylhistidine and creatinine and in apparent fractional breakdown rates after 2 days on a meat-free diet.
3. One of the patients had lower, and two of the patients had higher, fractional breakdown rates compared with the vegetarians.
4. Nτ-Methylhistidine and creatinine excretion-5-be a useful and non-invasive measurement of myofibrillar protein degradation in patients on meat-free diets. Firm conclusions cannot, however, be drawn without confirmatory, direct measurement of the breakdown rates of muscle protein in vivo.