Birmingham has a weight problem. It is one of the most obese cities in the United States and is progressively becoming the capital of sedentary lifestyle with the accompanying effects of higher levels of diabetes and dementia.
A simple dietary discovery may help the overweight population of Birmingham reduce their weight and preserve muscle mass. This development is particularly important for older people who can lose muscle mass from aging and inactivity but cannot build muscle mass.
Two studies reported at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 28, 2011, indicate that the amino acid leucine can burn fat and preserve muscle mass. The research was the result of observation of dietary supplements that would assist people who climb Mount Everest to preserve muscle mass.
Leucine is found in numerous foods, dietary supplements, and energy bars.
Researchers are from the University of Utah studied the effects of adding leucine to the diet of 10 people who recently climbed Mount Eveest.. An ultrasound device placed on the skin of the climbers and urine and fecal analysis confirmed the benefit of leucine in burning fat while preserving muscle.
Wayne Askew, Ph.D., and Stacie Wing-Gaia, Ph.D., were responsible for the research.
Travel to high altitudes (HA) is accompanied by anorexia, reduced food intake and weight loss. The weight loss at HA consists of both lean body (LBM) as well as fat mass. However, the loss of LBM at altitude is typically 60-70% of the total weight loss and can result in a concomitant loss of muscle strength. Loss of muscle mass at HA is characterized by an “anabolic resistance” where muscle is unable to maintain its protein mass by stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and inhibition of protein breakdown. Reduced nutrient flow to the working muscle contributes to the blunted anabolic stimuli; however oxidative stress damage to sarcolemmal integrity and reduced anabolic sensitivity of skeletal muscle to amino acids are also likely involved. mTOR is a cell signaling factor that senses cellular nutrient and energy levels and redox status. The branch chain amino acid, leucine, may help reduce LBM loss at altitude through its unique stimulation of protein synthesis via mTOR. Preliminary results of a leucine supplementation study involving a 2011 expedition of climbers on Mt Everest will be discussed.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site on August 28, 2011.