A January study in The Journal of Nutrition found a link between supplementation of amino acid leucine and improved muscle tone and volume in adolescents and adults with cerebral palsy (CP) (1). Such a link could offer easy relief to various issues stemming from weak or inflamed muscle tissue.
Leucine is a part of the branched-chain amino acids which make up roughly a third of muscle protein. Leucine has thus been found to stimulate protein synthesis, contribute to the growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue, and assist with wound healing, growth hormone production, and regulation of blood sugar levels. It is found in many foods, and also added as a supplement in various sports beverages, and meal replacement bars and beverages (2).
Individuals with cerebral palsy, especially those with spastic CP, experience a broad range of movement and muscle issues. Their muscle mass is commonly affected by the lower physical activity, muscle inflammation, and feeding issues commonly associated with CP (3). However, there are no studies on how taking a leucine supplement could improve muscle proteins in people with the motor disorder.
Researchers heralding from the U.K. and Australia conducted a controlled trial with 21 participants, all of whom were adolescents or young adults with moderate to severe CP. Eleven were in the control group and ten were given 192 mg/kg body mass of leucine dissolved in water daily for ten weeks (1, 3). Before and after the ten week period, the researchers measured (1):
- Muscle inflammation
- Elbow flexor muscle strength
- Muscle volume measured with 3D ultrasound
- Metabolic rate, with indirect calorimetry
- Wellbeing, via daily questionnaire
- Body composition, via CP-specific skinfold assessment
After the 10 week period, the group who received leucine experienced (1):
- A 3.6% increase in muscle volume
- A 25.4% increase in strength
- A 59.1% reduction in levels of c-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood (a marker of inflammation)
- Improved perceptions of wellbeing
- No change in metabolism
- No change in body composition
The control group had no change in muscle volume, strength, metabolism, or body composition. They experienced no significant change in levels of CRP in the blood (1, 3).
The benefits of leucine supplements are substantial. The study reveals benefits not just in one of the areas measured, but in several key improvements found. The researchers especially highlighted leucine’s “capacity to improve the quality of daily living” as a reason to continue trials of the supplement in people with CP in the future (3).
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- Study Shows Parents of Children with Disabilities Experience Three Times More Childcare Challenges
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- Theis, Nicola, Brown, Paula, Waldron, & Mark. (2020, January 21). Leucine Supplementation Increases Muscle Strength and Volume, Reduces Inflammation, and Affects Wellbeing in Adults and Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved February 28, 2020, from https://academic.oup.com/jn/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jn/nxaa006/5713418?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- Leucine. (2004, September 16). Retrieved February 28, 2020, from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Leucine#section=FDA-Generally-Recognized-as-Safe—GRAS-Notices
- Inacio, P. (2020, January 31). Leucine Supplementation Enhances Muscle Strength, Lowers… Retrieved February 28, 2020, from https://cerebralpalsynewstoday.com/2020/01/31/leucine-may-enhance-muscle-strength-lower-inflammation-study/