An overview of the therapeutic effects of leucine supplementation on skeletal muscle under atrophic conditions
There is no good evidence for establishing branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) tolerance levels for humans. With pigs, chicks, and rats, data are available concerning excessive intake levels of BCAA, but most of the information is for growing animals instead of for adults. Estimates of maintenance requirements for (high-quality) protein and BCAA in pigs weighing between 43 and 140 kg are 350 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1) for protein and 28.7 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1) for total BCAA. In contrast, human adult maintenance requirement estimates are much higher, i.e., 660 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1) for good quality protein and a range of 68 to 144 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1) for total BCAA. The human maintenance BCAA requirement estimates range from 10.3 to 22% of the maintenance protein requirement. Whole-body protein of 45-kg pigs contains 14.2 g BCAA/100 g protein, but the maintenance requirement (based on nitrogen balance) for total BCAA is only 8.2% of the total maintenance protein requirement. Conversely, sulfur amino acid (methionine + cysteine), threonine, and tryptophan maintenance requirements of pigs as a percentage of the maintenance protein requirement are much higher than whole-body protein levels of these amino acids. This suggests that the efficiency of using absorbed amino acids of dietary origin or of reusing endogenous amino acids arising from body protein catabolism may vary considerably among the indispensable amino acids. Additionally, work with pigs points to the conclusion that whole-body amino acid concentrations are poor predictors of both maintenance requirements and ideal amino acid profiles. Based on studies with young experimental animals, a rather large dietary excess (above requirement) of an individual BCAA is well tolerated when consumed in diets containing surfeit levels of protein and the other 2 BCAA.