Amino Acids

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 171–181 | Cite as

Insulin resistance and the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids in humans

  • María M. AdevaEmail author
  • Jesús Calviño
  • Gema Souto
  • Cristóbal Donapetry
Review Article


Peripheral resistance to insulin action is the major mechanism causing the metabolic syndrome and eventually type 2 diabetes mellitus. The metabolic derangement associated with insulin resistance is extensive and not restricted to carbohydrates. The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are particularly responsive to the inhibitory insulin action on amino acid release by skeletal muscle and their metabolism is profoundly altered in conditions featuring insulin resistance, insulin deficiency, or both. Obesity, the metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus display a gradual increase in the plasma concentration of BCAAs, from the obesity-related low-grade insulin-resistant state to the severe deficiency of insulin action in diabetes ketoacidosis. Obesity-associated hyperinsulinemia succeeds in maintaining near-normal or slightly elevated plasma concentration of BCAAs, despite the insulin-resistant state. The low circulating levels of insulin and/or the deeper insulin resistance occurring in diabetes mellitus are associated with more marked elevation in the plasma concentration of BCAAs. In diabetes ketoacidosis, the increase in plasma BCAAs is striking, returning to normal when adequate metabolic control is achieved. The metabolism of BCAAs is also disturbed in other situations typically featuring insulin resistance, including kidney and liver dysfunction. However, notwithstanding the insulin-resistant state, the plasma level of BCAAs in these conditions is lower than in healthy subjects, suggesting that these organs are involved in maintaining BCAAs blood concentration. The pathogenesis of the decreased BCAAs plasma level in kidney and liver dysfunction is unclear, but a decreased afflux of these amino acids into the blood stream has been observed.


Insulin resistance Branched-chain amino acids Leucine Isoleucine Valine 



There was no financial support for this work.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • María M. Adeva
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jesús Calviño
    • 3
  • Gema Souto
    • 4
  • Cristóbal Donapetry
    • 1
  1. 1.Hospital Juan Cardona c/ Pardo Bazán s/nFerrolSpain
  2. 2.OleirosSpain
  3. 3.Hospital Lucus AugustiLugoSpain
  4. 4.Clinical Center of the National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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