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J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Nov;23(11):1524-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.10.005. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

Comparison of high-protein diets and leucine supplementation in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and related disorders in mice.

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German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE), Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116, 14558 Nuthetal, Germany.


High-protein diets have been shown to promote weight loss, to improve glucose homeostasis and to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation. We aimed to study whether leucine supplementation is able to mimic the alleviating effects of high-protein diets on metabolic syndrome parameters in mice fed high-fat diet. Male C57BL/6 mice were fed for 20 weeks with semisynthetic high-fat diets (20% w/w of fat) containing either an adequate (10% protein, AP) or high (50% protein, HP) amount of whey protein, or an AP diet supplemented with L-leucine corresponding to the leucine content of the HP diet (6% leucine, AP+L). Body weight and composition, energy expenditure, glucose tolerance, hepatic triacylglycerols (TG), plasma parameters as well as expression levels of mRNA and proteins in different tissues were measured. HP feeding resulted in decreased body weight, body fat and hepatic TG accumulation, as well as increased insulin sensitivity compared to AP. This was linked to an increased total and resting energy expenditure (REE), decreased feed energy efficiency, increased skeletal muscle (SM) protein synthesis, reduced hepatic lipogenesis and increased white fat lipolysis. Leucine supplementation had effects that were intermediate between HP and AP with regard to body composition, liver TG content, insulin sensitivity, REE and feed energy efficiency, and similar effects as HP on SM protein synthesis. However, neither HP nor AP+L showed an activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway in SM. Leucine supplementation had no effect on liver lipogenesis and white fat lipolysis compared to AP. It is concluded that the essential amino acid leucine is able to mimic part but not all beneficial metabolic effects of HP diets.

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