Divergent Changes in Serum Branched-Chain Amino Acid Concentrations and Estimates of Insulin Resistance throughout Gestation in Healthy Women

J Nutr. 2020 Jul 1;150(7):1757-1764. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa096.


Background: Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) concentrations in the blood have been correlated with insulin resistance, but this relation throughout gestation (period in which insulin resistance typically increases) is unclear.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the associations between changes in BCAA concentrations and estimates of insulin resistance throughout gestation.

Methods: Serum BCAA (Leu, Ile, Val) concentrations and insulin resistance/sensitivity [i.e., homeostatic model assessment-2 of insulin resistance (HOMA2-IR), estimated metabolic clearance rate (MCR) of glucose, and estimated first- and second-phase insulin responses] were assessed at early (EP; 8.5 ± 0.2 wk) and/or late (LP; 29.2 ± 0.8 wk) pregnancy in 53 healthy women from the Glowing cohort. Adjusted Spearman correlations were used to evaluate the association between BCAA and insulin resistance/sensitivity measures at EP and LP, adjusted for body fat percentage and gestational weight gain (GWG). A multiple linear regression analysis was used to assess the association between changes in HOMA2-IR and BCAAs throughout gestation. Groups were made post hoc based on the mean percentage change (10% decrease) in Leu throughout gestation, creating a group with a ≥10% decrease in LeuLP-EP (BELOW) and a <10% decrease in LeuLP-EP (ABOVE), and Student's t tests were performed to assess differences between groups.

Results: Leu and Ile concentrations positively correlated with HOMA2-IR at both time points, but these relations at EP disappeared/weakened when adjusted for body fat percentage. From EP to LP, the change in Leu (LeuLP-EP) was negatively associated with the change in HOMA2-IR (HOMA2-IRLP-EP) (β = -0.037, P = 0.006). MCR was lower in the BELOW group compared with the ABOVE group, whereas there was no difference in HOMA2-IR between groups.

Conclusions: In this pregnancy cohort, BCAA concentrations decreased throughout gestation, whereas the mean insulin resistance did not change. These data do not support a connection between changes in blood BCAA concentrations and estimates of insulin resistance in pregnant women. This trial is registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01131117.

Keywords: HOMA-IR; branched-chain amino acids; insulin resistance; offspring; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Pregnancy


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01131117