Study Title:

Leucine Helps Immunity

Study Abstract

Although there has been great interest in the effects of amino acids on immune function, little is known about the impact of changes in BCAA availability on the ability of the immune system to function. Human immune cells incorporate BCAA into proteins and are able to oxidize BCAA. The immune system exists to protect the host from pathogenic invaders and from other noxious insults. Upon infection, there is a marked increase in demand for substrates by the immune system; these substrates provide energy and are the precursors for the synthesis of new cells, effector molecules, and protective molecules. Cell culture studies show that BCAA are absolutely essential for lymphocytes to synthesize protein, RNA, and DNA and to divide in response to stimulation. In mice, dietary BCAA restriction impairs several aspects of the immune function and increases the susceptibility to pathogens. Postsurgical or septic patients given BCAA intravenously showed improved immunity and this may relate to improved outcome. BCAAs are therefore absolutely essential for lymphocyte responsiveness and are necessary to support other immune cell functions. However, many aspects of BCAA and its effects on immune function have been understudied or not studied at all. More research is needed to understand the extent of the immune system's requirement for BCAA. It is likely that the essentiality of BCAA for the function of immune cells relates to protein synthesis.

Study Information

Phillip C. Calder.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Immunity.
J. Nutr.
2009 January
Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.

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