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J Nutr. 2018 Jul 1;148(7):1088-1095. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy091.

Leucine, Not Total Protein, Content of a Supplement Is the Primary Determinant of Muscle Protein Anabolic Responses in Healthy Older Women.

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Department of Kinesiology, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
PepsiCo R&D Nutrition, Barrington, IL.
Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



Older adults show a blunted muscle protein synthesis (MPS) response to postprandial hyperaminoacidemia relative to younger adults. Evidence suggests that this anabolic resistance can be overcome by consuming greater quantities of leucine.


The purpose of this trial was to determine whether the addition of leucine to a smaller dose (10 g) of milk proteins would, when compared with a larger dose (25 g) of whey protein isolate (WPI), result in similar increases in acute (hourly) and integrated (daily) myofibrillar protein synthesis (myoPS).


Healthy older (mean ± SD age: 69 ± 1 y) women (n = 11/group) were randomly assigned with the use of a single-blind, parallel-group design to twice-daily consumption of either WPI [25 g WPI (3 g l-leucine)] or leucine (LEU; 10 g milk protein with 3 g total l-leucine) for 6 d. Participants performed unilateral resistance exercise to allow assessment of the impact of the supplement alone and with resistance exercise. We determined acute (13C6-phenylanine) and integrated [using deuterated water (D2O)] rates of myoPS in the fasting (acute), basal (integrated), nonexercised, and exercised states.


Acute myoPS increased in both legs in response to LEU (fed: 45%; fed+exercise: 71%; P < 0.001) and WPI (fed: 29%; fed+exercise: 47%; P < 0.001) compared with fasting; the increase was greater with LEU than with WPI in the exercised leg (46%; P = 0.04) but not in the rested leg (P = 0.07). The acute myoPS response was greater in the exercised leg than in the rested leg for both WPI (63%) and LEU (58%) (P < 0.001). Integrated myoPS increased with WPI and LEU in the exercised leg (both 9%; P < 0.001) during supplementation, and with WPI (3%; P = 0.02) but not LEU (2%, P = 0.1) in the rested leg compared with the basal state.


A lower-protein (10 compared with 25 g/dose), leucine-matched beverage induced similar increases in acute and integrated myoPS in healthy older women. Lower-protein supplements with added leucine may represent an advantageous approach in older adults to maintain skeletal muscle anabolic sensitivity and attenuate muscle loss; however, further work is needed using longer-term interventions to substantiate these findings. This trial was registered at as NCT02282566.


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