Long-term leucine supplementation does not increase muscle mass or strength in healthy elderly men

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1468-75. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26668. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


Background: It has been reported that the blunted muscle protein synthetic response to food intake in the elderly can be normalized by increasing the leucine content of a meal.

Objective: The objective was to assess the effect of 3 mo of leucine supplementation on muscle mass and strength in healthy elderly men.

Design: Thirty healthy elderly men with a mean (+/-SEM) age of 71 +/- 4 y and body mass index (BMI; in kg/m(2)) of 26.1 +/- 0.5 were randomly assigned to either a placebo-supplemented (n = 15) or leucine-supplemented (n = 15) group. Leucine or placebo (2.5 g) was administered with each main meal during a 3-mo intervention period. Whole-body insulin sensitivity, muscle strength (one-repetition maximum), muscle mass (measured by computed tomography and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), myosin heavy chain isoform distribution, and plasma amino acid and lipid profiles were assessed before, during, and/or after the intervention period.

Results: No changes in skeletal muscle mass or strength were observed over time in either the leucine- or placebo-supplemented group. No improvements in indexes of whole-body insulin sensitivity (oral glucose insulin sensitivity index and the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance), blood glycated hemoglobin content, or the plasma lipid profile were observed.

Conclusion: Long-term leucine supplementation (7.5 g/d) does not augment skeletal muscle mass or strength and does not improve glycemic control or the blood lipid profile in healthy elderly men. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00807508.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leucine / administration & dosage*
  • Leucine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / drug effects
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Patient Selection
  • Placebos
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Placebos
  • Leucine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00807508