Overview

The goal of my research program is to identify protein and amino acid (building blocks of protein) requirements during key life stages of growth and development, and in disease.

During pregnancy the nutritional state of the mother influences the rapidly growing fetus and affects long-term health. Due to ethical constraints protein requirements during pregnancy is not well studied. With the use of stable isotope tracers, which are completely safe for use in vulnerable populations like pregnant women, my research will measure requirements and trace complex amino acid metabolic pathways in the human body. The focus will be to make dietary protein and amino acid recommendations to improve long-term health for the mother and child.

Undernutrition or malnutrition has been implicated to be the underlying cause of ~50% of all deaths in children in the developing world. My research will examine the impact of childhood malnutrition on protein and amino acid requirements with collaborations between research institutes located in India and BCCHR in Vancouver.

Publications

Total Sulfur Amino Acid Requirements Are Not Altered in Children with Chronic Renal Insufficiency, but Minimum Methionine Needs Are Increased
The Journal of Nutrition
Rajavel Elango, Mohammad A Humayun, Justine M Turner, Mahroukh Rafii, Veronika Langos, Ronald O Ball, Paul B Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.116.244301
10/2017

The Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Method with the Use of l-[1- 13 C]Leucine Suggests a Higher than Currently Recommended Protein Requirement in Children with Phenylketonuria
The Journal of Nutrition
Abrar Turki, Keiko Ueda, Barbara Cheng, Alette Giezen, Ramona Salvarinova, Sylvia Stockler-Ipsiroglu, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.3945/jn.116.240218
02/2017

Protein and amino acids: key players in modulating health and disease.
Elango R, Laviano A
PubMed: 27801686
01/2017

Protein and amino acids key players in modulating health and disease
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Rajavel Elango, Alessandro Laviano
DOI: 10.1097/mco.0000000000000343
01/2017

Safety and Tolerability of Leucine Supplementation in Elderly Men
The Journal of Nutrition
Rajavel Elango, Betina Rasmussen, Kenneth Madden
DOI: 10.3945/jn.116.234930
12/2016

Host conditioning and rejection monitoring in hepatocyte transplantation in humans.
Soltys KA, Setoyama K, Tafaleng EN, Soto Gutiérrez A, Fong J, Fukumitsu K, Nishikawa T, Nagaya M, Sada R, Haberman K, Gramignoli R, Dorko K, Tahan V, Dreyzin A, Baskin K, Crowley JJ, Quader MA, Deutsch M, Ashokkumar C, Shneider BL
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2016.12.017
PubMed: 28027971
12/2016

Proposals for Upper Limits of Safe Intake for Arginine and Tryptophan in Young Adults and an Upper Limit of Safe Intake for Leucine in the Elderly
Journal of Nutrition
L. Cynober, D. M. Bier, M. Kadowaki, S. M. Morris, R. Elango, M. Smriga
DOI: 10.3945/jn.115.228478
11/2016

Human Milk Plasmalogens Are Highly Enriched in Long-Chain PUFAs
Journal of Nutrition
S. Moukarzel, R. A. Dyer, B. O. Keller, R. Elango, S. M. Innis
DOI: 10.3945/jn.116.236802
10/2016

Assessing resting energy expenditure in overweight and obese adolescents in a clinical setting: validity of a handheld indirect calorimeter
Pediatric Research
Paula Woo, Gayathri Murthy, Cindy Wong, Brenden Hursh, Jean-Pierre Chanoine, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1038/pr.2016.182
09/2016

Protein Requirements during Aging
Nutrients
Glenda Courtney-Martin, Ronald Ball, Paul Pencharz, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.3390/nu8080492
08/2016

Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy
Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal
Rajavel Elango, Ronald O Ball
DOI: 10.3945/an.115.011817
07/2016

Recent developments in understanding protein needs – How much and what kind should we eat? 1
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism
Paul B. Pencharz, Rajavel Elango, Robert R. Wolfe
DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0549
05/2016

Determination of the safety of leucine supplementation in healthy elderly men
Amino Acids
Betina Rasmussen, Erin Gilbert, Abrar Turki, Kenneth Madden, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1007/s00726-016-2241-0
04/2016

Cardiac Autonomic Function at Baseline and under Stress and Its Relationship to Circulatory Markers of Inflammation in Obese Compared to Nonobese Children: A Pilot Study
Hormone Research in Paediatrics
Brenden E. Hursh, Mir Sohail Fazeli, Sarah Wang, Elizabeth A. Marchant, Paula Woo, Rajavel Elango, Pascal M. Lavoie, Jean-Pierre Chanoine, Jean-Paul Collet
DOI: 10.1159/000445685
04/2016

Dietary Protein Requirement of Men >65 Years Old Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique Is Higher than the Current Estimated Average Requirement.
Rafii M, Chapman K, Elango R, Campbell WW, Ball RO, Pencharz PB, Courtney-Martin G
PubMed: 26962173
03/2016

Dietary Protein Requirement of Men >65 Years Old Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique Is Higher than the Current Estimated Average Requirement
Journal of Nutrition
M. Rafii, K. Chapman, R. Elango, W. W. Campbell, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz, G. Courtney-Martin
DOI: 10.3945/jn.115.225631
03/2016

Treatment of Creatine Transporter (SLC6A8) Deficiency With Oral S-Adenosyl Methionine as Adjunct to L-arginine, Glycine, and Creatine Supplements
Pediatric Neurology
Sravan Jaggumantri, Mary Dunbar, Vanessa Edgar, Cristina Mignone, Theresa Newlove, Rajavel Elango, Jean Paul Collet, Michael Sargent, Sylvia Stockler-Ipsiroglu, Clara D.M. van Karnebeek
DOI: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2015.05.006
10/2015

Protein: A nutrient in focus 1
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism
Emily Arentson-Lantz, Stephanie Clairmont, Douglas Paddon-Jones, Angelo Tremblay, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0530
08/2015

Minimally invasive 13C-breath test to examine phenylalanine metabolism in children with phenylketonuria
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism
Abrar Turki, Gayathri Murthy, Keiko Ueda, Barbara Cheng, Alette Giezen, Sylvia Stockler-Ipsiroglu, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2015.04.005
06/2015

Lysine Requirements of Moderately Undernourished School-Aged Indian Children Are Reduced by Treatment for Intestinal Parasites as Measured by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique
Journal of Nutrition
R. R. Pillai, R. Elango, R. O. Ball, A. V. Kurpad, P. B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.114.208439
03/2015

Dietary Protein Requirement of Female Adults >65 Years Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique Is Higher Than Current Recommendations
Journal of Nutrition
M. Rafii, K. Chapman, J. Owens, R. Elango, W. W. Campbell, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz, G. Courtney-Martin
DOI: 10.3945/jn.114.197517
10/2014

Reply to DJ Millward.
Tang M, McCabe GP, Elango R, Pencharz PB, Ball RO, Campbell WW
DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.090324
PubMed: 25240088
10/2014

Tolerability of Leucine in Humans
Branched Chain Amino Acids in Clinical Nutrition
Rajavel Elango, Ronald O. Ball, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1914-7_1
10/2014

Protein Requirements of Healthy Pregnant Women during Early and Late Gestation Are Higher than Current Recommendations
Journal of Nutrition
T. V. Stephens, M. Payne, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz, R. Elango
DOI: 10.3945/jn.114.198622
09/2014

Healthy pregnant women in Canada are consuming more dietary protein at 16- and 36-week gestation than currently recommended by the Dietary Reference Intakes, primarily from dairy food sources
Nutrition Research
Trina V. Stephens, Hillary Woo, Sheila M. Innis, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2014.07.001
07/2014

Assessment of protein requirement in octogenarian women with use of the indicator amino acid oxidation technique.
Tang M, McCabe GP, Elango R, Pencharz PB, Ball RO, Campbell WW
DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.042325
PubMed: 24429540
04/2014

Assessing Energy Expenditure in Obese Adolescents in a Clinical Setting: Is the Handheld Indirect Calorimeter Valid and Accurate?
Canadian Journal of Diabetes
Paula P.W. Woo, Gayathri Murthy, Cindy Wong, Jean-Pierre Chanoine, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2013.08.205
10/2013

Splanchnic First Pass Disappearance of Threonine and Lysine Do Not Differ in Healthy Men in the Fed State
Journal of Nutrition
K. P. Chapman, R. Elango, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.168328
01/2013

Lysine from Cooked White Rice Consumed by Healthy Young Men Is Highly Metabolically Available When Assessed Using the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique
Journal of Nutrition
I. R. D. Prolla, M. Rafii, G. Courtney-Martin, R. Elango, L. P. da Silva, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.166728
01/2013

Determination of the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of Leucine in Adult Men
Journal of Nutrition
P. B. Pencharz, R. Elango, R. O. Ball
DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.160259
10/2012

Determination of the tolerable upper intake level of leucine in acute dietary studies in young men.
Elango R, Chapman K, Rafii M, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.024471
PubMed: 22952178
10/2012

Recent advances in determining protein and amino acid requirements in humans
British Journal of Nutrition
Rajavel Elango, Ronald O. Ball, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1017/s0007114512002504
08/2012

Available versus digestible amino acids – new stable isotope methods
British Journal of Nutrition
Rajavel Elango, Crystal Levesque, Ronald O. Ball, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1017/s0007114512002498
08/2012

Protein requirement of healthy school-age children determined by the indicator amino acid oxidation method.
Elango R, Humayun MA, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.012815
PubMed: 22049165
12/2011

Lysine a-ketoglutarate reductase, but not saccharopine dehydrogenase, is subject to substrate inhibition in pig liver
Nutrition Research
Desmond B.S. Pink, Stephanie K. Gatrell, Rajavel Elango, Joan Turchinsky, Aaron S. Kiess, Kenneth P. Blemings, Walter T. Dixon, Ronald O. Ball
DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.06.001
07/2011

Evidence that protein requirements have been significantly underestimated
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Rajavel Elango, Mohammad A Humayun, Ronald O Ball, Paul B Pencharz
DOI: 10.1097/mco.0b013e328332f9b7
01/2010

Lysine Requirement of Healthy, School-Aged Indian Children Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Technique
Journal of Nutrition
R. R. Pillai, R. Elango, S. Muthayya, R. O. Ball, A. V. Kurpad, P. B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.109.113357
11/2009

Measurement of homocysteine and related metabolites in human plasma and urine by liquid chromatography electrospray tandem mass spectrometry
Journal of Chromatography B
Mahroukh Rafii, Rajavel Elango, James D. House, Glenda Courtney-Martin, Pauline Darling, Lawrence Fisher, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2009.05.002
10/2009

Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Is Not Affected by Period of Adaptation to a Wide Range of Lysine Intake in Healthy Young Men
Journal of Nutrition
R. Elango, M. A. Humayun, R. O. Ball, P. B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.3945/jn.108.101147
04/2009

Amino acid requirements in humans: with a special emphasis on the metabolic availability of amino acids
Amino Acids
Rajavel Elango, Ronald O. Ball, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1007/s00726-009-0234-y
01/2009

An approach to defining the upper safe limits of amino acid intake.
Pencharz PB, Elango R, Ball RO
PubMed: 18806114
10/2008

Indicator amino acid oxidation: concept and application.
Elango R, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 18203885
02/2008

Individual amino acid requirements in humans: an update
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Rajavel Elango, Ronald O Ball, Paul B Pencharz
DOI: 10.1097/mco.0b013e3282f2a5a4
01/2008

1.3.3 Protein
Pediatric Nutrition in Practice
Paul Pencharz, Rajavel Elango
DOI: 10.1159/000155244
2008

Reevaluation of the protein requirement in young men with the indicator amino acid oxidation technique.
Humayun MA, Elango R, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 17921376
10/2007

Lysine requirement of healthy school-age children determined by the indicator amino acid oxidation method.
Elango R, Humayun MA, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 17684206
08/2007

Application of the indicator amino acid oxidation technique for the determination of metabolic availability of sulfur amino acids from casein versus soy protein isolate in adult men.
Humayun MA, Elango R, Moehn S, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 17634258
08/2007

High-throughput and simultaneous measurement of homocysteine and cysteine in human plasma and urine by liquid chromatography–electrospray tandem mass spectrometry
Analytical Biochemistry
Mahroukh Rafii, Rajavel Elango, Glenda Courtney-Martin, James D. House, Lawrence Fisher, Paul B. Pencharz
DOI: 10.1016/j.ab.2007.07.026
2007

Minimum methionine requirement and cysteine sparing of methionine in healthy school-age children.
Humayun MA, Turner JM, Elango R, Rafii M, Langos V, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 17093160
11/2006

Total sulfur amino acid requirement of healthy school-age children as determined by indicator amino acid oxidation technique.
Turner JM, Humayun MA, Elango R, Rafii M, Langos V, Ball RO, Pencharz PB
PubMed: 16522909
03/2006

Parenteral and enteral routes of feeding in neonatal piglets require different ratios of branched-chain amino acids.
Elango R, Goonewardene LA, Pencharz PB, Ball RO
PubMed: 14704296
01/2004

The branched-chain amino acid requirement of parenterally fed neonatal piglets is less than the enteral requirement.
Elango R, Pencharz PB, Ball RO
PubMed: 12368405
10/2002

Research

Determination of the optimal amounts of protein and amino acids to be added to medical foods in children with in-born errors of metabolism, including Phenylketonuria, Methylmalonic acidemia/Propionic acidemia
Children who are born with deficiency of an enzyme, have a block in metabolic pathways and causes toxic increases of some metabolites. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). PAH deficiency leads to increased levels of phenylalanine (an amino acid) in plasma. Similarly, Methylmalonic Acidemia (MMA) and Propionic Acidemia (PA) involves children born with a defect in conversion of Methylmalonyl-CoA to Succinyl-CoA, which are formed from the metabolism of amino acids - methionine, threonine, isoleucine and valine. Treatment involves dietary restriction of these amino acids, with provision of added protein from specially formulated medical foods. We are exploring what amounts of protein and other amino acids are adequate for these vulnerable children to support growth, using minimally-invasive stable isotope based methods.

Assessment of the protein quality of foods
While the amount of protein we eat needs to be optimal, dietary recommendations for protein are based on food sources. But food sources vary in their indispensable and dispensable amino acid content, with some foods quite rich and balanced, while some have a few key indispensable amino acids as too low. In addition, during digestion there is some loss of these amino acids, and will result in less amino acids available for growth and development in children. Thus, we are conducting experiments to explore how amino acids from various food sources are ‘metabolically available’ for protein synthesis in young children using state-of-the-art stable isotope based methods.

Determination of protein and amino acid requirements during pregnancy and lactation
It is important that pregnant women eat an adequate amount and quality of protein to ensure healthy growth and development of the fetus. It is well known that pregnant women need more high quality protein in their diet, but how much additional protein is required remains unclear. There is reason to believe that current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendations for protein intake in pregnancy are too low. Additionally, metabolic adaptations that occur in a woman’s body throughout pregnancy result in different nutritional requirements during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimesters. To better define protein and amino acid requirements and identify good sources of protein throughout pregnancy, we are studying healthy pregnant women 19-35y, in their 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy using a stable isotope (L-1-13C-Phenylalanine) based technique.

Honours & Awards

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Expert Working Group Member, 2017

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Expert Working Group Member, 2014

Award from International Council on Amino Acid Science, 2014

Research Group Members

Abrar Turki
Madeleine Ennis
Katia Caballero
Betina Rasmussen
Zoe Schmidt
Haneen Saleemani