In order to determine how soya-bean proteins are digested and metabolized in the human intestine before colonic bacterial fermentation and to estimate their true digestibility, the gastro-jejunal behaviour of soya-bean proteins in water and in two other forms (a concentrated soya-bean-protein solution (isolate) and a drink composed of crude soya-bean proteins (soymilk)) was studied in humans. Experiments were carried out in eight healthy volunteers using a double-lumen steady-state intestinal perfusion method with polyethyleneglycol (PEG) as a non-absorbable volume marker. Gastric emptying and N and electrolyte contents of the jejunal digesta were analysed. Gastric half-emptying time (min) of the liquid phase after water ingestion (12·59 (SE 0·12)) was shorter (P < 0.05) than those for soymilk (37·74 (SE 11·57)) and isolate (36·52 (SE 11·23)). Electrolytic balances showed that for all meals, Na+, Cl− and K+ were secreted when Ca2+ was efficiently absorbed from the jejunal lumen. Gastro-jejunal N absorption for isolate and soymilk were 63 and 49% respectively, and were not significantly different from one another; after water ingestion, endogenous N was estimated to be 21 mmol. An estimate of the exogenous: endogenous values for the effluents was obtained from the amino acid compositions of soymilk and effluents after water or soymilk ingestion, indicating that 70% of the total N was exogenous and 30% endogenous. Under these conditions the endogenous fraction represented 31 mmol after soymilk ingestion and the gastro-jejunal N balance indicated that 54% of the soymilk was absorbed. This finding indicates that the true gastro-jejunal digestibility of soya-bean proteins is similar to that of milk proteins.