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What Is Leucine?

The structure of leucine.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Image By: Bioreg Images
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2014
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Leucine is an amino acid that is found in many types of protein and is considered to be necessary for the proper absorption of various types of nutrients. Leucine acid is also available in supplement form and is popular among people who engage in sports activities on a regular basis. Leucine amino acid is also used as a food additive, as the compound can help to enhance the flavor of many different types of food.

In the body, leucine is produced by the process of hydrolysis and can involve just about every type of food protein that is consumed. The acid is used in muscle tissue, the liver, and in adipose tissue. In the case of muscle and adipose tissue, leucine is one of the components needed to form sterols.

There are several ways in which the leucine protein product helps maintain proper function of various organs and muscle groups. One important role of the amino acid involved helping the body to maintain a proper blood glucose level. Individuals diagnosed with Type I or II diabetes may benefit from making sure the diet is rich in protein while minimizing the intake of carbohydrates.

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Leucine is also helpful with maintaining the various muscle systems in the body. One of the most important benefits is that leucine can help to delay the deterioration of muscle tissue while enhancing the production of muscle proteins. For people who are physically active, this means the muscles do not tire as easily and also do not begin to break down under stress as quickly.

When proper amounts of leucine are maintained in the body, healing of scratches and other small wounds occur more efficiently. Hormone production is also aided by the presence of this amino acid.

Should the body fail to receive enough leucine through food consumption, several symptoms may develop. Loss of muscle strength, fatigue, and headaches are not uncommon. In some situations, the individual may also experience bouts with dizziness and become extremely irritable. When deficiency is suspected, it is a good idea to increase the amount of protein in the diet or take a daily leucine supplement in order to correct the problem.

While there is some difference of opinion on whether or not excess amounts of the amino acid can be toxic, there are some reported instances where a high intake of leucine supplements led to the presence of more ammonia in the body. There is also some support for a link between the incidence of pellagra and too much leucine in the body.

While most people will obtain adequate amounts of leucine by eating a diet with an equitable amount of protein each day, supplements may be necessary in some instances. This is particularly true if the body becomes depleted due to any factor that either inhibits the production of leucine in the body or requires larger amounts of leucine than the diet can reasonably provide. Supplements of the amino acid can usually be obtained from any health food store or vitamin shop at reasonable prices.

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Discuss this Article

Glasis
Post 1

I've known a few people with cancer who had a problem with getting enough of this.

A loss of appetite is often a result of chemotherapy. It's hard to see to it your loved one gets these building blocks when they can't eat.

I spent a lot of time making chicken livers as a kind of natural supplement. I had a good recipe and it went down well.

They make fortified drink mixes packed with essential vitamins and such, but sometimes the flavor isn't great.

I had some luck with breakfast drinks. They make those drinks you can replace for a breakfast meal. You mix it with milk, so that is a plus there as well.

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