Disease prevention and delayed aging by dietary sulfur amino acid restriction: translational implications

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2018 Apr;1418(1):44-55. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13584. Epub 2018 Feb 5.


Sulfur amino acids (SAAs) play numerous critical roles in metabolism and overall health maintenance. Preclinical studies have demonstrated that SAA-restricted diets have many beneficial effects, including extending life span and preventing the development of a variety of diseases. Dietary sulfur amino acid restriction (SAAR) is characterized by chronic restrictions of methionine and cysteine but not calories and is associated with reductions in body weight, adiposity and oxidative stress, and metabolic changes in adipose tissue and liver resulting in enhanced insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure. SAAR-induced changes in blood biomarkers include reductions in insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, glucose, and leptin and increases in adiponectin and fibroblast growth factor 21. On the basis of these preclinical data, SAAR may also have similar benefits in humans. While little is known of the translational significance of SAAR, its potential feasibility in humans is supported by findings of its effectiveness in rodents, even when initiated in adult animals. To date, there have been no controlled feeding studies of SAAR in humans; however, there have been numerous relevant epidemiologic and disease-based clinical investigations reported. Here, we summarize observations from these clinical investigations to provide insight into the potential effectiveness of SAAR for humans.

Keywords: aging; cysteine; metabolism; methionine; sulfur amino acid restriction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Sulfur / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Leptin / blood
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Models, Animal
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Adiponectin
  • Amino Acids, Sulfur
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • fibroblast growth factor 21
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I