Effects of Leucine on Skeletal Muscle During 14 d Bed Rest in Middle-aged Adults


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Aging is associated with a slow, progressive loss of muscle mass and strength. Mechanical unloading, such as that commonly experienced during hospitalization or spaceflight, results in a rapid loss of muscle mass and strength, particularly in older adults. Exercise, a potent countermeasure to such losses, is often impractical in acutely ill patients. The essential amino acid leucine has been shown to acutely stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), a decrease in which mechanistically drives inactivity-induced losses in muscle. This study evaluated the effects of leucine supplementation (0.06 g • kg • meal-1; LEU) with each of three daily meals in middle-aged adults, a largely unstudied age group, during 14 d bed rest (BR) and subsequent 7 d rehabilitation. Primary findings were: 1) leucine attenuated the loss of whole body lean mass during the first 7 d of BR compared to control subjects (LEU: -0.6±0.2 kg vs. CON: -1.1±0.2 kg, p<0.05) and reduced or prevented decrements in knee extensor strength (LEU: -8±3% vs. CON: -15±3%, p<0.05), ankle extensor strength (LEU: -13±5% vs. CON: -20±5%, p<0.05), and knee extensor endurance (LEU: -2±4% vs. CON: -14±3%, p<0.05) during 14 d BR; 2) LEU maintained both post-absorptive and post-prandial MPS during BR; in contrast, BR decreased post-absorptive MPS (pre-BR: 0.061% • h-1 vs. post-BR: 0.043% • h-1, p<0.05); 3) insulin area under the curve during an oral glucose tolerance test was unchanged in LEU after BR (21±8%) but elevated in CON (52±23%, p<0.05) and whole body insulin sensitivity in LEU was significantly increased above pre-BR values after 7 d rehabilitation (17±10% vs. CON: -9±9%, p<0.05). Leucine is an inexpensive, low volume supplement that can be easily incorporated into the daily meals of middle-aged adults to maintain muscle protein synthesis and protect muscle mass, strength, and insulin sensitivity during periods of physical inactivity characteristic of hospitalized acute illness and spaceflight.



Bed rest, atrophy, muscle metabolism, protein synthesis, muscle mass, muscle strength, insulin sensitivity, leucine, essential amino acid, nutrition, aging, middle-aged, stable isotope tracer, FSR, mTOR, spaceflight