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Leucine Linked to Prevention of Muscle Wasting

Individuals who are confined to bed for a long period of time due to illness often have issues with their muscles wasting away due to the fact that they’re not using them. A recent NASA-funded study suggests that putting the amino acid leucine in patient’s food may provide them with enough protein to prevent muscle wasting.

This ongoing study is examining how different supplements affect muscle wasting in bed-bound patients. An earlier part of the study included 13 healthy male volunteers who were confined to bed for 28 days. Half took a supplement comprised of amino acids and carbohydrates while the other half took a placebo.

At the end of the 28 days, the men taking the supplement lost half as much leg muscle as those taking the placebo. However, the supplement used was very expensive to produce and tasted horrible.

For the next part of the study, the researchers looked at the effect a supplement of leucine only would have on muscle wasting. The study participants included middle-aged men between the ages of 45 and 60 and older patients who were confined to bed for 10 days. During that time period, three grams of leucine were included in their breakfast, lunch, and dinner, equivalent to what is found in 4 ounces of lean beef.

The leucine supplement was not quite as effective as the one used in the first part of the study, but it still significantly deterred muscle wasting. Additionally, it was cheaper and easier to hide in the patient’s food to mask the bad taste.

Researchers from the University of Texas conducted this study. It has not yet been published.

Leucine is an essential amino acid that stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis, which starts the muscle building process.

In addition to building muscle, leucine also helps regulate blood sugar levels. Foods rich in leucine include soybeans, lentils, beef, peanuts, salmon, eggs and milk.

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