High levels of branched-chain amino acids are linked to reduced insulin sensitivity, according to new research.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Toronto, found that the association was more pronounced in Hispanic and white people.
The study involved 685 participants without diabetes. Data were accrued from the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study. 40 per cent of participants were white, 24 per cent were black, and 34 per cent were Hispanic.
The researchers found that elevated branched-chain amino acids were linked to impaired insulin sensitivity and increased fasting insulin levels. However, these associations were only significant in white and Hispanic people.
The study provides a potentially intriguing avenue of diabetes research, although it is at a very early stage. The researchers couldn’t prove that high levels of branched-chain amino acids actually caused impaired insulin sensitivity, only that there was a correlation.
“We observed significant associations of plasma [branched-chain amino acids] with diabetes incidence, insulin sensitivity and insulin clearance, although these relationships differed across ethnic groups,” the researchers wrote. “These findings extend the scientific literature on the role of plasma [branched-chain amino acids] in the etiology of type 2 diabetes and highlight the need for additional studies in well-characterised multi-ethnic cohorts.”
The findings are published in Diabetes Care.

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