Insulin resistance and the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids

Front Med. 2013 Mar;7(1):53-9. doi: 10.1007/s11684-013-0255-5. Epub 2013 Feb 6.


Insulin resistance (IR) is a key pathological feature of metabolic syndrome and subsequently causes serious health problems with an increased risk of several common metabolic disorders. IR related metabolic disturbance is not restricted to carbohydrates but impacts global metabolic network. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), namely valine, leucine and isoleucine, are among the nine essential amino acids, accounting for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals. The BCAAs are particularly responsive to the inhibitory insulin action on amino acid release by skeletal muscle and their metabolism is profoundly altered in insulin resistant conditions and/or insulin deficiency. Although increased circulating BCAA concentration in insulin resistant conditions has been noted for many years and BCAAs have been reported to be involved in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and body weight, it is only recently that BCAAs are found to be closely associated with IR. This review will focus on the recent findings on BCAAs from both epidemic and mechanistic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism*
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Insulin
  • Muscle Proteins
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases