Leucine supplementation in the management of protein energy malnutrition: A review

  • J. Wamiti
  • W. Kogi-Makau
  • F.E. Onyango
  • S. Ngala


Background: Wasting accounts for 4.7% of all deaths of children under five years of age globally. Currently there is no standard for treatment of moderate wasting in children resulting in high variability of treatment methods and low predictability  if recovery  outcomes. Leucine, a branched chain amino acid,has recently received significant attention as a therapeutic agent for the  treatment of numerous muscle wasting conditions. This is attributed to its ability to accelerate protein synthesis and reduces protein breakdown in the muscles.

Objective: To establish if leucine could be used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of protein energy malnutrition.

Study selection: Based on defined key words a search was carried out on Pubmed to retrieve all publications on leucine  supplementation and muscle protein synthesis. Only studies that met the search criteria were retrieved and the required data obtained.

Data synthesis: Eightunique studies obtained from 8 articles that met the study criteria were included. The publications were  analysed to establish whether leucine supplementation had any effect on muscle protein synthesis and protein break down. Dosage levels used in the studies if available were also duly noted.

Results: The articles reviewed indicated that leucine supplementation either led to enhanced pr otein synthesis or reduced  muscle mass loss in both healthy participants and participants with wasting conditions

Conclusion: Leucine supplementation is a safe and effective way to enhance muscle protein synthesis and reduce loss of lean mass in catabolic conditions. Given the low effectiveness of current therapeutic feeds used in the management of moderate malnutrition, leucine supplementation should be given significant consideration as a potential strategy for treating the condition.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0012-835X