Research suggests that changes in leucine oxidation (leuox) with feeding may reflect adult protein requirements. We evaluated this possibility by assessing the effects of age, sex, and different protein intakes on whole-body leucine kinetics and nitrogen balance. Thirty-four young (n=18, 22-46 years) and old (n=16, 63-81 years) men and women completed three 18-day trials with protein intakes of 0.50, 0.75 and 1.00 g protein·kg body weight(-1)·d(-1). Fasting and fed-state leucine kinetics were quantified on day 12 of each trial using a primed, constant infusion of L-[1-13C]leucine. Protein requirement was estimated using classical nitrogen balance measurements and calculations. Leucine kinetics parameters were influenced by age and sex across all protein intakes. With feeding, leuox increased more in old vs. young adults. Independent of age, fasting and fed-state leuox were lower, and net leucine balance (fasting+fed-state) was higher in women vs. men. Among all subjects and protein intakes, nitrogen balance was correlated with fed-state leuox (r=0.39), fed-state leucine balance (r=0.60), net leucine balance (r=0.49) and the change in leuox from the fasting to fed state (r=0.49) (P<.05 for all results). At the highest protein intake, the change in leuox with feeding was inversely correlated with protein requirement (r=-0.39). These findings indicate that leucine kinetics, especially leuox, reflect nitrogen balance-based estimates of the need for dietary protein and generally support the view that protein requirement is comparable between young and old adults.
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