Is protein metabolism changed with obesity?

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan;14(1):89-92. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328341389e.


Purpose of review: Although it is well established that obesity is accompanied by various degrees of metabolic impairments especially in the regulation of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, the influence of obesity on protein metabolism is not clearly understood. The purpose of this review is to present data describing the modification in protein metabolism that have been reported in the clinical setting of obesity.

Recent findings: Recent findings suggest that protein metabolism at the whole-body level is less sensitive to insulin action. Impairments in skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates in the postabsorptive state and in response to anabolic factors are reported in obese human. Finally, chronic excessive energy intake and increased adiposity in rats, without the appearance of other metabolic disturbances, do not induce any changes in tissue protein synthesis rates.

Summary: Body composition in obesity is characterized by elevated fat mass but also lean body mass which is considered either increased or decreased (in the case of sarcopenic obesity). Thus protein metabolism as reflected by changes in protein synthesis and breakdown might be modified in obese individuals but it is still largely debated. Only a few studies have investigated muscle protein kinetics during obesity and do not lead to the same conclusions prolonging the controversies. Indeed, obesity is associated with many metabolic disturbances which might constitute confounding factors differently affecting muscle protein metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Muscle Proteins