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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 91
VERNON ROBERT YOUNG
November 15, 1937–March 30, 2004
BY NEVIN S. SCRIMSHAW, ARNOLD L. DEMAIN, AND NAOMI K. FUKAGAWA
VERNON ROBERT YOUNG WAS THE world’s leading expert on human protein and amino acid requirements and metabolism at the time of his death of complications of renal cancer at the age of 66. He was a key investigator in the series of studies that revealed the inadequacy of the 1973 Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Recommended Allowance for human protein requirements and the research that corrected this serious error. Later his innovative use of stable isotopes showed that the estimated essential amino acid requirement levels universally accepted since the 1940s were much too low. These erroneous values had been endorsed by a series of FAO/WHO committees, including one that met as late as 1985.
With confirmation in Indian subjects from his collaborator Anura Kurpad in Bangalore, Young proposed a new “MIT” pattern that was adopted, with minor changes, by the 2003 FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation. It recognized that adult essential amino acid requirement estimates per gram of protein needed to be increased by a factor of 2 to 3, depending on the specific amino acid. He reported this work and a great deal of other groundbreaking research in over 600 full-length articles and book chapters, approximately