Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation, dietary intake and circulating levels in cardiometabolic diseases: an updated review
Purpose of review Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids derived from diet. BCAA supplementation has been recommended in elderly and athletes, but recent studies suggest an association between high dietary BCAAs and blood levels of BCAAs with greater risk of cardiometabolic diseases (CMD). This review aims to integrate current epidemiological evidence analyzing the association between BCAAs and related-CMD risk factors. Recent findings Most epidemiological studies consistently show that dietary BCAAs are associated with higher risk of type-2 diabetes (T2D) whereas there is limited evidence related with other cardiovascular risk factors. Evidence also exists showing an association between higher circulating BCAA levels and risk of T2D and cardiovascular disease, and also probably with metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity. Several clinical trials suggest beneficial cardiometabolic effect of BCAAs supplementation, although with a small sample size and short follow-up. Studies show a weak correlation between dietary BCAAs and circulating BCAA levels. Protein quality sources and whole dietary pattern are key aspects to improve our understanding of the effect of BCAAs as well as factors associated with higher protein needs, such as age or frailty. Dietary and circulating BCAAs exhibit possible detrimental cardiometabolic effects, but BCAA supplementation may have some positive influence on target groups with nutritional deficiencies.