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Amino Acids. 2013 Sep;45(3):431-41. doi: 10.1007/s00726-012-1438-0. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

Nutritionally essential amino acids and metabolic signaling in aging.

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Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


Aging is associated with a gradual decline in skeletal muscle mass and strength leading to increased risk for functional impairments. Although basal rates of protein synthesis and degradation are largely unaffected with age, the sensitivity of older muscle cells to the anabolic actions of essential amino acids appears to decline. The major pathway through which essential amino acids induce anabolic responses involves the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) Complex 1, a signaling pathway that is especially sensitive to regulation by the branched chain amino acid leucine. Recent evidence suggests that muscle of older individuals require increasing concentrations of leucine to maintain robust anabolic responses through the mTOR pathway. While the exact mechanisms for the age-related alterations in nutritional signaling through the mTOR pathway remain elusive, there is increasing evidence that decreased sensitivity to insulin action, reductions in endothelial function, and increased oxidative stress may be underlying factors in this decrease in anabolic sensitivity. Ensuring adequate nutrition, including sources of high quality protein, and promoting regular physical activity will remain among the frontline defenses against the onset of sarcopenia in older individuals.

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