The effect of physical activity level and exercise training on the association between plasma branched-chain amino acids and intrahepatic lipid content in participants with obesity

Froukje Vanweert, Sebastiaan C. Boone, Bram Brouwers, Dennis O. Mook-Kanamori, Renee de Mutsert, Frits R. Rosendaal, Hildo J. Lamb, Vera B. Schrauwen-Hinderling, Patrick Schrauwen, Matthijs K. C. Hesselink, Esther Phielix*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims To evaluate whether the association between plasma branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and intrahepatic lipid (IHL) was affected by physical activity level. Furthermore, to investigate if a conventional exercise training program, a subcategory of physical activity, could lower plasma BCAA along with alterations in IHL content in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and people with nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL).

Methods To investigate the effect of physical activity on the association between plasma BCAA and IHL content, linear regression analyses were performed in 1983 individuals from the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) stratified by physical activity frequency. Furthermore, the effect of a 12-week supervised combined aerobic resistance-exercise program on plasma BCAA, insulin sensitivity (hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp), and IHL (proton-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-1-MRS)) was investigated in seven patients with T2DM, seven individuals with NAFL and seven BMI-matched control participants (CON).

Results We observed positive associations between plasma valine, isoleucine and leucine level, and IHL content (1.29 (95% CI: 1.21, 1.38), 1.52 (95% CI: 1.43, 1.61), and 1.54 (95% CI: 1.44, 1.64) times IHL, respectively, per standard deviation of plasma amino acid level). Similar associations were observed in less active versus more active individuals. Exercise training did not change plasma BCAA levels among groups, but reduced IHL content in NAFL (from 11.6 +/- 3.0% pre-exercise to 8.1 +/- 2.0% post exercise, p < 0.05) and CON (from 2.4 +/- 0.6% pre-exercise to 1.6 +/- 1.4% post exercise, p < 0.05), and improved peripheral insulin sensitivity in NAFL as well by similar to 23% (p < 0.05).

Conclusions The association between plasma BCAA levels and IHL is not affected by physical activity level. Exercise training reduced IHL without affecting plasma BCAA levels in individuals with NAFL and CON. We conclude that exercise training-induced reduction in IHL content is not related to changes in plasma BCAA levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1520
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

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