Branched-Chain Amino Acids Lower Your Risk of Obesity?

Branched-Chain Amino Acids Lower Your Risk of Obesity?

With the recent buzz surrounding the obesity epidemic, particularly in developed nations with the Americans leading the way, people are starting to look closer at dietary factors that affect their weight.

Branched-chain amino acids, of which there are three—leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are essential amino acids.  In total, there are nine essential amino acids which you have to obtain from dietary sources since your body is unable to synthesize them de novo.

Research on Branched-chain Amino Acids and Weight

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition [1], researchers from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, looked at the association between branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) intake and risk of being overweight/obese in a population-based study.

Study Design

The study itself included 4429 men and women who’s ages ranged between 40-59.  None of the participants had diabetes.  As well, this cohort included people from Japan, China, as well as the UK and United States.

The study authors found that those in the first quartile of branched-chain amino acid intake (consumed the most) were less likely to be either overweight or obese than those in the lower quartile of BCAA intake.

“In conclusion, higher dietary BCAA intake is associated with lower prevalence of overweight status/obesity among apparently healthy middle-aged adults from East Asian and Western countries.”

Some proponents of intermittent fasting, such as Martin Berkhan from Lean Gains, include branched-chain amino acids in their training protocols.

Of the three BCAA, leucine has been the most researched.  Supplementation with leucine has garnered interest for those looking to retain muscle mass while dieting.



  1. Qin LQ, Xun P, Bujnowski D, Daviglus ML, Van Horn L, Stamler J, He K; for the INTERMAP Cooperative Research Group.  Higher Branched-Chain Amino Acid Intake Is Associated with a Lower Prevalence of Being Overweight or Obese in Middle-Aged East Asian and Western Adults.  J Nutr. 2010 Dec 15.
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