Weight-loss diets and 2-y changes in circulating amino acids in 2 randomized intervention trials

Yan Zheng, Uta Ceglarek, Tao Huang, Lerong Li, Jennifer Rood, Donna H. Ryan, George A. Bray, Frank M. Sacks, Dan Schwarzfuchs, Joachim Thiery, Iris Shai, Lu Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background: Circulating amino acids, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and aromatic amino acids (AAAs), have been associated with diabetes risk; however, little is known about how a long-term dietary intervention for weight loss affects circulating amino acids. Objectives: We examined the effects of weight-loss diets on longterm changes in plasma amino acids and the associations of these changes with weight loss and the improvement of insulin resistance. Design: We repeatedly measured plasma amino acid profiles over 2 y in overweight or obese participants from 2 randomized, dietary intervention, weight-loss trials [774 subjects from the POUNDS LOST (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies Trial) and 318 subjects from the DIRECT (Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial)]. Results: Intervention diets consistently lowered most of the amino acid concentrations, including BCAAs and AAAs, in both trials. In the POUNDS LOST, average-protein diets (15% of daily energy) showed stronger effects than did high-protein diets (25% of daily energy) on reducing concentrations of the diabetes-associated BCAA valine at 6 mo independent of the weight change. In both trials, weight loss was directly related to the concurrent reduction of the BCAAs leucine and isoleucine, the AAAs tyrosine and phenylalanine, and 4 other amino acids. For example, per kilogram of weight loss, there was a 0.04-SD decrease in log tyrosine (∼0.6 mmol/L) in both trials. In addition, we showed that reductions in alanine and the AAA tyrosine were significantly related to improved insulin resistance (measured with the use of the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance), independent of weight loss, in both trials (both P < 0.05). For example, per 1-SD decrease in log tyrosine (∼17 mmol/L), there was a 0.04-SD (∼3%) improvement in insulin resistance in the POUNDS LOST and a 0.13-SD (∼8%) improvement in insulin resistance in the DIRECT. Conclusion: Our findings underscore the potential importance of dietary interventions in improving amino acid profiles (i.e., reducing diabetes risk-enhancing amino acid concentrations) along with and beyond weight loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-511
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Dietary intervention
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolomics
  • Plasma amino acids
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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