Modulation of Energy Sensing by Leucine Synergy with Natural Sirtuin Activators: Effects on Health Span

J Med Food. 2020 Nov;23(11):1129-1135. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2020.0105. Epub 2020 Aug 4.


Sirt1 and 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) are energy-sensing systems that work cooperatively and regulate mitochondrial biogenesis and fuel metabolism, and mediate, in part, the salutary effects of caloric restriction on lifespan and healthspan. We have shown that leucine activates Sirt1 and enables synergy with sirtuin co-activators. Resveratrol is a widely recognized activator of Sirt1; however, poor bioavailability and rapid metabolism limit effective clinical translation of promising animal data. However, we found that combining low resveratrol doses with leucine increased skeletal muscle and adipocyte Sirt1 activity, mitochondrial biogenesis and fatty acid oxidation; these effects result in increased lifespan and marked reductions in insulin resistance, inflammatory markers, body weight, and visceral adiposity in preclinical models. To translate these data to humans, we assessed the effects of resveratrol (50 mg)/leucine (1.11 g) on glucose dynamics in a 4-week placebo-controlled trial of 36 prediabetic subjects. Leucine-resveratrol reduced insulin resistance (homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance) 33% with corresponding reductions in glucose and insulin area under the curve in oral glucose tolerance tests. We extended these concepts in preclinical studies using both direct Sirt1 activators and Sirt1 pathway activators. Low-dose (10 nM) NAD+ precursors (nicotinic acid, nicotinamide mononucleotide, and nicotinamide riboside) synergized with leucine to increase Sirt1 activity in adipocytes, hepatocytes, and muscle cells (30-100%, P < .01) and lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans (25%, P = .025) and to significantly regress atherosclerotic lesion size and macrophage infiltration in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. Thus, synergistic activation of Sirt1 using leucine and a co-activator exerts pleiotropic effects impacting cardiometabolic endpoints.

Keywords: AMPK; Sirt1; leucine; metabolism; resveratrol.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Leucine / administration & dosage
  • Leucine / pharmacology*
  • Longevity
  • Mice, Obese
  • Prediabetic State
  • Resveratrol / administration & dosage
  • Resveratrol / pharmacology*
  • Sirtuin 1 / metabolism*
  • Stilbenes* / pharmacology


  • Stilbenes
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Leucine
  • Resveratrol