Branch chain amino acids: biomarkers of health and disease

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Jan;17(1):86-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000010.


Purpose of review: There is burgeoning evidence that branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are biomarkers of metabolic, cardiovascular, renal and cerebrovascular disease. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current evidence in this area.

Recent findings: Recent evidence demonstrates that BCAAs are associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, risk of cardiovascular disease, stage I and II chronic kidney disease and ischemic stroke. Further, circulating levels of BCAAs have the potential to predict populations at risk for cardiometabolic disease, type 2 diabetes and mortality from ischemic heart disease. Importantly, the relationship of BCAAs to insulin resistance is affected by the intake of fat in the diet as well as age.

Summary: Current evidence supports the potential use of BCAAs as biomarkers of disease. However, questions regarding the mechanisms underlying the relationship of BCAAs to disease process and severity need to be answered prior to the use of BCAAs as a biomarker in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Ischemia / blood*
  • Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / blood
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Stroke / blood
  • Stroke / diagnosis


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Biomarkers