Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Research Update: High BCAAs May Be Bad For Your Heart

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science nutrition <strong>blog</strong>

 By Steve Blechman


A new review article entitled “Branched Chain Amino Acids And Cardiovascular Disease” was published in the prestigious journal Nature Reviews Cardiology in February 2023. Researchers from Duke University School of Medicine reported that “high-circulating concentrations of BCAA are a hallmark of metabolic disorders, including obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

“Epidemiological studies have also shown that high plasma BCAA concentrations identify individuals with heart failure, coronary artery disease or hypertension and predict adverse events in these populations.” The review article discussed key points such as “the roles of impaired BCAA metabolism in vascular function and arteriosclerosis.”

The potential mechanism of action of BCAA metabolism and cardiovascular disease include impaired vascular relaxation, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, BCAA oxidation in platelets promoting thrombosis, and the valine-derived metabolite three-hydroxybutyrate (3-HiB).

A study on branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) published May 8th, 2022, in the journal Aging Cell reported that “specific composition of dietary protein may be a previously unappreciated driver of metabolic dysfunction and that BCAA restricted diets may be a promising new approach to delay or prevent diseases of aging.”

This report says that the catabolite of valine, 3-hydroxyisobutyrate (3-HIB), can enhance fat accumulation in skeletal muscle. 3-HIB can create fatty muscles – a contributor to insulin resistance. Also “elevated BCAAs are specifically associated to poor health outcomes in humans overall, and higher blood levels of isoleucine are associated with increased mortality” and “higher dietary levels of isoleucine are associated with body mass index” and obesity.

“In support of an anti-atherogenic role for BCAAs, adding leucine to the drinking water” of mice decreases LDL cholesterol and “50% reduction in aortic atherosclerotic plaque.” Also, the review says “elevated leucine levels” were associated with the decreased risk of coronary artery disease in the “Jackson heart study a population study” composed of African American individuals.

In a study published June 2022 in the journal Atherosclerosis, researchers “conducted a systematic review with meta-analysis of non-perspective and prospective clinical studies to assess the effects of circulating branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), including isoleucine, valine and leucine, on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.” The meta-analysis included “11 non-prospective studies involving 2,806 participants and 10 prospective studies involving 43,895 participants reported correlation between BCAAs and CVD risk.”

“This is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate associations between circulating BCAA levels and the risk of CVD across a large sample. Current evidence suggests that circulating isoleucine levels are significant and positively correlated with CVD development. Compared to patients with low isoleucine levels, those with high levels have an increased risk for CVD. However, circulating valine and leucine levels do not appear to be significant factors in developing CVD.”

Over the last couple of years, I have been a big proponent of the essential amino acid leucine for activating the anabolic trigger of protein synthesis in muscle over branched-chain amino acid mixtures containing leucine, isoleucine, and valine (BCAAs). Branched-chain amino acid mixtures (BCAAs) refer to three amino acids: leucine, valine, and isoleucine. Over the years, the popularity of BCAA mixtures has grown with the false understanding that BCAAs alone are most effective for increasing the anabolic drive in muscle protein synthesis. The research has shown that taking pure leucine is more effective than the combination of BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). Research has also shown that leucine alone (not isoleucine and valine) is anabolic, and enhances protein synthesis (Journal of Physiology, 2013). Research has demonstrated that isoleucine and valine limit the effectiveness of leucine when taken together! Isoleucine and valine compete for absorption into the blood and into muscle cells. All three BCAAs share the active transport system. Research in humans has shown that taking BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine) together can decrease muscle protein synthesis. That’s why I recommend leucine by itself over BCAA mixtures because combining BCAAs might limit the stimulation of protein synthesis because of reduced uptake of leucine in the blood and in muscle cells.


AML Post Workout contains 5 grams of pure leucine. It also contains 5 grams of creatine monohydrate and 2.5 grams of betaine. Creatine has been reported in the scientific literature to function as a myostatin inhibitor, supporting muscle growth. Betaine has also been found in the scientific research to stimulate growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Combining 5 grams of pure leucine along with 5 grams of creatine monohydrate and 2.5 grams of betaine makes AML Post Workout a potent muscle growth and recovery supplement. For best results, we suggest taking one serving of AML Post Workout by itself (on an empty stomach) 15-30 minutes before a post-workout meal, providing all the essential amino acids required for muscle protein synthesis.



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