Does supplementation with leucine-enriched protein alone and in combination with fish-oil-derived n-3 PUFA affect muscle mass, strength, physical performance, and muscle protein synthesis in well-nourished older adults? A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

C.H. Murphy, E.M. Flanagan, G. De Vito, D. Susta, K.A.J. Mitchelson, E.D. Castro, J.M.G. Senden, J.P.B. Goessens, A. Miklosz, A. Chabowski, R. Segurado, C.A. Corish, S.N. McCarthy, B. Egan, L.J.C. van Loon, H.M. Roche*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Leucine-enriched protein (LEU-PRO) and long-chain (LC) n-3 (omega-3) PUFAs have each been proposed to improve muscle mass and function in older adults, whereas their combination may be more effective than either alone.

Objective: The impact of LEU-PRO supplementation alone and combined with LC n-3 PUFAs on appendicular lean mass, strength, physical performance and myofibrillar protein synthesis (MyoPS) was investigated in older adults at risk of sarcopenia.

Methods: This 24-wk, 3-arm parallel, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in 107 men and women aged >= 65 y with low muscle mass and/or strength. Twice daily, participants consumed a supplement containing either LEU-PRO (3 g leucine, 10 g protein; n = 38), LEU-PRO plus LC n-3 PUFAs (0.8 g EPA, 1.1 g DHA; LEU-PRO+n-3; n = 38), or an isoenergetic control (CON; n = 31). Appendicular lean mass, handgrip strength, leg strength, physical performance, and circulating metabolic and renal function markers were measured pre, mid-, and postintervention. Integrated rates of MyoPS were assessed in a subcohort (n = 28).

Results: Neither LEU-PRO nor LEU-PRO+n-3 supplementation affected appendicular lean mass, handgrip strength, knee extension strength, physical performance or MyoPS. However, isometric knee flexion peak torque (treatment effect: -7.1 Nm; 95% CI: -12.5, -1.8 Nm; P < 0.01) was lower postsupplementation in LEU-PRO+n-3 compared with CON. Serum triacylglycerol and total adiponectin concentrations were lower, and HOMA-IR was higher, in LEU-PRO+n-3 compared with CON postsupplementation (all P < 0.05). Estimated glomerular filtration rate was higher and cystatin c was lower in LEU-PRO and LEU-PRO+n-3 postsupplementation compared with CON (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not observe a beneficial effect of LEU-PRO supplementation alone or combined with LC n-3 PUFA supplementation on appendicular lean mass, strength, physical performance or MyoPS in older adults at risk of sarcopenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1427
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • aging
  • LC n-3 PUFA
  • leucine
  • protein
  • muscle mass
  • strength
  • sarcopenia
  • AGE

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