Dietary essential amino acid supplements increase bone strength by influencing bone mass and bone microarchitecture in ovariectomized adult rats fed an isocaloric low-protein diet

J Bone Miner Res. 2002 Jul;17(7):1264-72. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.2002.17.7.1264.


This study was designed to investigate whether the administration of dietary essential amino acid supplements in adult rats made osteoporotic by estrogen deficiency and reduced protein intake could reverse the deleterious effects caused by these maneuvers. This animal model was selected to mimic the situation observed in elderly women in whom estrogen deficiency and/or low-protein intake (but also calcium and vitamin D deficiency) are known to contribute to the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. Six-month-old rats were ovariectomized (OVX) and fed an isocaloric 2.5% casein diet for 10 weeks or sham-operated (SHAM) and fed an isocaloric 15% casein diet. The animals fed the 2.5% casein diet were given isocaloric supplements of essential amino acids in similar relative proportion to that of casein at doses of 2.5% or 5% of total diet for an additional 16 weeks. Vertebrae, femur, and tibia bone mineral density (BMD); ultimate strength; and microtomographic histomorphometry were evaluated before and after dietary essential amino acid supplements. Essential amino acid supplements increased vertebrae, femur, and tibia bone strength in OVX rats fed a low-protein diet. The mechanical changes induced by this dietary isocaloric supplement were associated with the prevention of a further BMD decrease or even with some increases and changes in microarchitecture such as from a rod to a plate trabecular spacial configuration and increased cortical thickness. Higher insulin-like growth factor (IGF) I levels, as well as greater bone formation and reduced bone resorption as assessed by biochemical markers of bone remodeling, were found in rats receiving essential amino acid supplements. In conclusion, dietary essential amino acid supplements increased bone strength through modifications of BMD, trabecular architecture, and cortical thickness possibly by an IGF-I-mediated process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Femur Neck / physiopathology
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tibia / physiopathology


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I