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Leucine- Not Just A Muscle Builder

Leucine is a real superstar of amino acids. It not just boosts muscle anabolism but it also prevents body fat accumulation. In a recent study at Columbia University, the investigators doubled the intake of leucine (via leucine enriched drinking water) in mice with free access to either a standard rodent chow or a high-fat diet. While the higher leucine intake didnt produce major benefits in chow-fed mice, it resulted in up to 32% reduction of weight gain and a whopping 25% decrease in body fat mass in high fat diet-fed mice. These results indicate that leucine is not a fat burner per se; rather, it prevents body fat accmulation during overeating (A high-fat diet almost always leads to significant overeating in mice). The results of this study also demonstrated that the reduction of extra lardness resulted from increased metabolic rate, while food intake wasnt decreased. But that wasnt all. Leucine supplementation also improved blood lipids and insulin sensitivity. Interestingly, the reductions in total cholesterol and "bad cholesterol" (LDL) were largely independent of leucine-induced changes in body fat mass, suggesting that high leucine intake per se improves cholesterol levels.

The take-home message is that leucine-rich supplements (e.g., BioQuest MyoZene, ProSource Mega BCAA) are highly beneficial for those who wish to "bulk", while minimizing body fat accumulation.

Zhang Y et al. Increasing dietary leucine intake reduces diet-induced obesity and improves glucose and cholesterol metabolism in mice via multimechanisms. Diabetes. 2007 Jun;56(6):1647-54. Epub 2007 Mar 14.