What is Leucine and how is it used in the pharmaceutical industry?

Joanna Sikorska
7 min reading
What is Leucine and how is it used in the pharmaceutical industry?
Table of contents
  • Leucine is an essential amino acid, i.e. it cannot be produced in the body itself.
  • It plays an important role in protein synthesis and increases thermogenesis.
  • Leucine is used in the pharmaceutical industry, medicine and cosmetics.

What is Leucine?

Leucine is an exogenous amino acid – it cannot be synthesized by the human body, but must be supplied through food or supplements. Together with valine and isoleucine, Leucine is counted among the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). It contains an α-amino group, an α-carboxylic acid group and an isobutyl group in the side chain.

Leucine is found in foods, especially zoonotic products, for example, milk, whey, beef, pork, eggs, poultry meat and fish. Soybeans, peanuts or almonds are also good sources of Leucine. On an industrial scale, it is obtained by hydrolysis of proteins or synthetically. If you want to learn more about Leucine and how you can use it in your business, be sure to read on!

Leucine properties and functions

Leucine has the form of a white powder and is highly soluble in water. Its melting point is 337 °C.

This amino acid plays a very important role in humans’ bodies. These are some of its functions:

  • increasing the training capacity,
  • accelerating the process of building muscle mass,
  • stabilizing the blood sugar level,
  • supporting recovery after workouts,
  • regulation of the activity of certain enzymes important for brain energy metabolism,
  • increasing muscle strength and slowing the loss of motor function,
  • improving protein synthesis in the liver, preventing many liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.

Leucine functions are vital for athletes. Leucine, together with other branched-chain amino acids, accounts for up to 1/3 of the total mass of muscle tissue. For this reason, there is an increased need for amino acids during intense physical activities. As one of the key amino acids responsible for protein synthesis, Leucine can also help maximize muscle mass gains. It works by sending a signal to muscle cells about the availability of anabolic substances. Thus, it triggers protein synthesis and enables muscle mass growth. It also prevents the loss of muscle mass. This is also important for older people, whose muscle mass decreases with age. Taken immediately after training, Leucine also supports muscle recovery and initiates muscle protein synthesis.

Leucine is important not only for athletes, but also for those who want to lose weight. This amino acid increases thermogenesis and thus can accelerate fat burning.

In addition, Leucine stabilizes blood sugar levels, as it stimulates glycogen production and increases insulin sensitivity.

Leucine deficiency is rare, only in cases of malnutrition. It manifests itself in headaches and dizziness, muscle weakness, and a general deterioration of mood. An excess, on the other hand, can cause an imbalance in nitrogen metabolism, which can lead to liver disorders. Another effect of Leucine overdose may be the development of swollen erythema. 

What is Leucine used for?

What is Leucine used for?

As already mentioned before, Leucine is an exogenous amino acid, so it must be supplied. Therefore, Leucine is mainly used in the pharmaceutical industry. It can also be used in medicine – Leucine increases muscle strength and slows the loss of motor function and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of neuromuscular diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Leucine is not only used as a dietary supplement, but also contains essential proteins in foods and beverages. Leucine  as a flavor enhancer has the number E641. It is also used in cosmetics – as a fragrance or in hair and skin care products. It regenerates aging skin by reducing fine lines and sagging skin.

Leucine is also an ingredient in pet and animal foods. It is especially important for people with low birth weight, where these processes are impaired. In addition, Leucine stimulates the development of the small intestine.

Leucine in pharmaceutical industry

Since Leucine is vital for athletes, it is used in the pharmaceutical industry – as an ingredient in dietary supplements, usually for bodybuilders and those who want to reduce their body weight. It is also found in medications that prevent the breakdown of muscle proteins that can occur after trauma or severe stress. Leucine is available in powder as well as tablet or capsule form.

Leucine is also used as a dispersant for inhalable drugs and for parenteral and enteral nutrition and as a flavoring and lubricant for tablets in manufacturing.

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