Oral citrulline does not affect whole body protein metabolism in healthy human volunteers: results of a prospective, randomized, double-blind, cross-over study

Clin Nutr. 2011 Dec;30(6):807-11. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


Background & aims: Citrulline increases protein synthesis during refeeding in rodents with short bowel syndrome, aging and malnutrition, and improves nitrogen balance in fed healthy humans. The aim of the current study therefore was to determine whether citrulline had affected protein metabolism in healthy volunteers.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study, 12 healthy adults received a 5-h intravenous infusion of L-[1-(13)C]-leucine in the post-absorptive state, after a 7-day oral supplementation with 0.18 g/kg/day citrulline, or an iso-nitrogenous placebo. Treatment order was randomized, treatment periods were separated by 13-day wash out. Leucine appearance rate (Ra) was determined from plasma [1-(13)C]-keto-iso-caproate enrichment and leucine oxidation from expired (13)CO(2), and nitrogen balance was estimated from 6-h urinary urea excretion.

Results: Compared with placebo, oral citrulline supplementation increased plasma citrulline, arginine and ornithine concentrations, but failed to affect albumin, transthyretin, free insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 plasma concentrations, urinary nitrate excretion, or nitrogen balance. Citrulline supplementation did not alter leucine Ra, leucine oxidation, nor whole-body protein synthesis.

Conclusion: In healthy, well nourished volunteers, oral citrulline increases plasma citrulline and arginine availability but does not affect whole-body protein kinetics in the post-absorptive state.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Citrulline / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Proteins
  • Citrulline