Dietary protein quantity and quality greatly impact metabolic health via evolutionary-conserved mechanisms that ensure avoidance of amino acid imbalanced food sources, promote hyperphagia when dietary protein density is low, and conversely produce satiety when dietary protein density is high. Growing evidence supports the emerging concept of protein homeostasis in mammals, where protein intake is maintained within a tight range independently of energy intake to reach a target protein intake. The behavioral and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying these adaptations are unclear. While peripheral factors are able to signal amino acid deficiency and abundance to the brain, the brain itself is exposed to and can detect changes in amino acid concentrations, and subsequently engages acute and chronic responses modulating feeding behavior and food preferences. In this review, we will examine the literature describing the mechanisms by which the brain senses changes in amino acids concentrations, and how these changes modulate feeding behavior.
Keywords: amino acids; appetite; brain; food intake; leucine; protein.