Amino acid supplements and metabolic health: a potential interplay between intestinal microbiota and systems control
Bifari et al. Genes & Nutrition
Amino acid supplements and metabolic health: a potential interplay between intestinal microbiota and systems control
Francesco Bifari 2
Chiara Ruocco 0
Ilaria Decimo 1
Guido Fumagalli 1
Alessandra Valerio 3
Enzo Nisoli 0
0 Center for Study and Research on Obesity, Department of Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, University of Milan , 20129 Milan , Italy
1 Section of Pharmacology, Department of Diagnostics and Public Health, University of Verona , Verona , Italy
2 Laboratory of Cell Metabolism and Regenerative Medicine, Department of Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, University of Milan , Milan , Italy
3 Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Brescia , Brescia , Italy
Dietary supplementation of essential amino acids (EAAs) has been shown to promote healthspan. EAAs regulate, in fact, glucose and lipid metabolism and energy balance, increase mitochondrial biogenesis, and maintain immune homeostasis. Basic science and epidemiological results indicate that dietary macronutrient composition affects healthspan through multiple and integrated mechanisms, and their effects are closely related to the metabolic status to which they act. In particular, EAA supplementation can trigger different and even opposite effects depending on the catabolic and anabolic states of the organisms. Among others, gut-associated microbial communities (referred to as gut microbiota) emerged as a major regulator of the host metabolism. Diet and host health influence gut microbiota, and composition of gut microbiota, in turn, controls many aspects of host health, including nutrient metabolism, resistance to infection, and immune signals. Altered communication between the innate immune system and the gut microbiota might contribute to complex diseases. Furthermore, gut microbiota and its impact to host health change largely during different life phases such as lactation, weaning, and aging. Here we will review the accumulating body of knowledge on the impact of dietary EAA supplementation on the host metabolic health and healthspan from a holistic perspective. Moreover, we will focus on the current efforts to establish causal relationships among dietary EAAs, gut microbiota, and health during human development.
Aging; Branched-chain amino acids; Diabetes; Essential amino acids; Gut microbiota; Obesity; Healthspan; Microbes; Short-chain fatty acids; Supplement
Dietary supplementation with essential (EAAs) and/or
branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) regulates
metabolism and energy balance by directly affecting peripheral
tissues, such as muscles, adipose tissue, and liver [
Moreover, EAA supplementation promotes cardiac and
skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis [
oxidative damage [
], enhances muscle protein synthesis
and physical endurance [
], reduces body weight
], and increases immune function [
Altogether, these effects have been shown to improve the
healthspan and metabolic health [
]. Notably, the effect
of EAAs drastically changes when they act in catabolic or
anabolic conditions [
]. In catabolic states, EAAs
represent mostly energy substrates, while in anabolic conditions
EAAs fuel protein synthesis and cell growth. Recently,
microbial communities present in the gastrointestinal tract,
collectively termed the gut microbiota, have emerged as
important regulators of metabolism [
] and immune
]. The human gut is associated with a
diverse microbial community that is composed mainly of
bacteria , but also includes methanogenic archaea
(mainly Methanobrevibacter smithii), viruses (mainly
phage), fungi, yeasts, and protozoa [
sequencing showed that bacterial communities usually
consist of hundreds or thousands of bacterial taxa,
principally pertaining to two phyla: Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes
. This ensemble of organisms has co-evolved with the
human host [
] and extends the coding potential of
human genome with 500-fold more genes [
]. It has
an essential role in altering the absorption, metabolite
transformations, and energy storage [
17, 23, 25, 48
Comparing germ-free mice with otherwise syngeneic
and conventionally raised mice allows understanding
that the gut microbiota influences concentrations of the
most metabolites detected in plasma [
]. Several of
these circulating metabolites, such as bile acids and
short-chain fatty acids, regulate function and
homeostasis of diverse organs and tissues in a system-controlled
manner. Gut microbiota can rapidly respond to large
changes in diet [
], potentially facilitating the
diversity of human dietary lifestyles and contributing to the
host metabolic phenotype. Dietary EAAs have been
suggested to modulate the intestinal immune system, in
addition to their roles as building blocks for protein
synthesis, nutrient signals, and modulators of gene
]. Furthermore, a BCAA-enriched mixture
(BCAAem) has been shown to rejuvenate the
agerelated modifications of gut microbiota [
]. In this
review we will summarize the effect of dietary EAA
supplements, highlighting the potential interactions between
EAAs and gut microbiota (Fig. 1).
EAA supplementation affects metabolism and health
In conditions of dietary nitrogen balance, the adult protein
turnover is approximately 250 g/day [
]. Whole body
protein synthesis in humans drastically decreases with age
being 10 times less in elderly compared to newborns.
Similarly, the protein catabolism also decreases with age.
These parameters can largely change in conditions of
nutrient deprivation and in disease states, for example, in
traumatized or septic subjects [
]. In healthy gut, dietary
EAAs are efficiently taken up by different amino-acid
transporters in the enterocytes of proximal jejunum [
Moreover, EAAs, in particular leucine, have been shown
to act as potent nutrient signals. At the molecular level, it
has been shown that intracellular leucine concentration
can be sensed by the multiprotein complex leucyl-tRNA
], which activates the mechanistic target
of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase. Amino acid-induced mTOR
activation regulates protein, lipid, and nucleotide
synthesis, as well as inhibits autophagy.
Dietary BCAAem supplementation has been shown to
improve motor performance and physical endurance [
In adult mice, mTOR signaling activated by BCAAem
enhances the mitochondrial biogenesis partly through
increasing nitric oxide production [
]. In skeletal muscles of
aged rats, BCAAem recovers the reduced basal and
postinsulin mTOR and p70S6K activation and the impaired
post-insulin Akt activation [
], and improves the
ageassociated loss of function and muscle mass [
BCAAem has been reported also to increase de novo
synthesis of proteins and to reduce the protein breakdown,
with rescue of rosuvastatin-induced myopathy [
Circulating EAA concentrations are influenced by
fasting and pathological conditions [
] (Fig. 2).
During starvation, EAA metabolism is directed toward
oxidation to generate ATP. This process is regulated by
activation of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK), a master
sensor of the energy balance [
supplementation has been successfully tested in acute and
severe catabolic conditions, including burns and trauma
]. In dialysis patients, the correction of the plasma
amino-acid profile, through administration of EAAs,
reduces proteinuria and delays the progression of renal
]. Moreover, the BCAA supplementation
improves prognosis and quality of life in patients with
liver cirrhosis [
Different catabolic states, including starvation and
malnutrition, are known to impair immune homeostasis. In
particular, the dietary restriction of amino acids impairs
cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cell function
], in addition to reduce lymphocyte proliferation [
In elderly people, protein malnutrition is one of the major
causes of immune dysfunction [
]. Interestingly, dietary
supplementation of BCAAs has been reported to reduce
the incidence of infections acquired in geriatric long-term
rehabilitation centers [
] as well as the risk of bacterial
and viral infection in patients with decompensated
]. Furthermore, BCAAem supplementation may
correct the nephropathy-linked anemia in hemodialysis
patients fed low protein diet , as well as BCAAs
ameliorate the post-intense exercise immunosuppression [
In obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes mellitus
(T2DM), the results of diverse and opposing anabolic and
catabolic signals impair amino acid catabolism leading to
the BCAA accumulation. Low circulating levels of
adiponectin decrease BCAA catabolism through AMPK signal
]. Resistin and visfatin, adipokines highly expressed in
visceral fat, induce amino acid uptake and protein
synthesis. EAAs have been reported to induce mTOR activation
and increase insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1)
phosphorylation, thereby contributing to the development of
impairment of insulin signaling [
]. Indeed, elevated
blood BCAA levels have been found in conditions
associated with insulin resistance, such as obesity and TDM2
] (Fig. 2). Moreover, in TDM2 muscles, the
BCAA metabolite 3-hydroxyisobutyrate increases
endothelial fatty acid transportation, thus worsening the
muscle insulin resistance . On the other hand, in
selected subsets of obese subjects, BCAA intake is
associated with reduced body weight and body fat [
Although the BCAAs have been shown to worsen TDM2
in obese subject, in a long-term randomized study of
elderly people with T2DM , as well as in patients with
chronic viral liver disease [
], BCAA supplementation
improved metabolic control and ameliorated insulin
resistance. BCAAem-supplemented middle-aged (16 months)
mice showed increased expression of peroxisome
proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1 α (PGC-1α)
and sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and enhanced mitochondrial
biogenesis and function in cardiac and skeletal muscles [
Further, BCAAem has been found to improve sarcopenia,
that is the age-associated loss of muscle mass and
function, in old rats [
] and to prevent muscle atrophy in
mice bearing a cachexia-inducing tumor [
middleaged mice, BCAAem preserved muscle fiber size,
improved physical endurance and motor coordination [
decreased protein breakdown and protected against
dexamethasone-induced soleus muscle atrophy in rats [
When administered orally at the beginning of rat
senescence, BCAAem formula has been shown to maintain the
health of kidney in aged rats [
], by inducing eNOS and
vascular endothelial growth factor expression in kidney,
thus increasing vascularization and reducing renal fibrosis.
The EAA supplementation can ameliorate myocardial
dysfunction in diabetic rats [
]. Moreover, improved
vascularization and increased collagen deposition, in
addition to the fibroblast proliferation, seem also to be
involved in the cutaneous wound healing obtained with
topical application of BCAAs and other essential amino acids
in aged rats [
Gut microbiota affects metabolism and health
Substantial evidence has been accumulated that gut
microbial communities influence feeding, energy
homeostasis, endocrine systems, and brain function. The
human microbiota produces in gut lumen essential
vitamins, including vitamin K, vitamin B12, biotin, folate,
thiamine, riboflavin, and pyridoxine, which are absorbed
by the intestine [
]. During the recent years, it has
become clear that the influence of the microbiome on
health may be even more profound. In particular, it was
well established that gut microbiota can generate and
indirectly influence the concentration of proteins,
including hormones, neurotransmitters, and inflammatory
molecules with systemic effects linked to the
development of many diseases, such as obesity, T2DM, or
Of particular interest is the bacterial production of short
chain fatty acids (SCFAs), e.g., propionate, butyrate, and
acetate from polysaccharide degradation, which can be
used from the host tissues as substrates for energy
]. The abundance in the gut of organisms from
Lachnospiraceae family, or the ratio of Firmicutes to
Bacteroides are often associated with the production of
SCFAs, and their signal to gut enteroendocrine cells is
mediated by binding to G protein-coupled receptors,
namely GPR41 and GPR43 [
butyrate has been reported to regulate levels of
glucagonlike peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is produced by enterocytes
]. GLP-1 enhances the glucose-dependent insulin
secretion of the pancreatic beta cells . Butyrate has
been reported to act as an anti-inflammatory molecule,
both on circulating immune cells and enterocytes, thus
regulating gut-barrier properties [
production seems to be particularly relevant in human
health, because it promotes satiety, and prevents the
hepatic lipogenesis lowering thus cholesterol production
Studies on microbial community structure by 16S
rRNA gene sequencing have shown that relatively better
energy-harvesting bioreactors promote energy storage,
increasing the predisposition to obesity [
high ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroides, observed in gut
microbiota from obese patients, influences degradation
of polysaccharides to SCFAs, in particular increasing
acetate and decreasing butyrate production .
Increasing blood levels of acetate correlate with insulin
resistance development, and they increase production of the
orexigenic peptide ghrelin in the stomach [
butyrate levels are linked to low level inflammation,
which in turn decreases insulin resistance [
17, 21, 26
Studies in humans also suggest a role for the gut
microbiota in T2DM. In particular, when
treatmentnaïve patients with metabolic syndrome received
intestinal transplantation either from lean donors or from
their own feces, recipients of feces from lean donors
have a higher abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria
linked to improvement of insulin sensitivity [
The composition of the gut microbiota is not
constant during the lifetime of the host and changes
with age [
], owed to several reasons, including
alterations in intestinal functions or inflammatory
]. Importantly, aging is associated
with a shift in the ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes
]. Indeed, in people over 60 years
the total number of facultative anaerobic microbes
(i.e. Firmicutes) increases, while the proportion of
Bifidobacteria decreases in comparison to young
subjects. The age-related changes of the gut
microbiota have been found especially important in
pathophysiological processes of the age-related disorders,
such as frailty [
], neurodegeneration [
cognitive decline [
], T2DM [
], and cardiovascular
Different environmental factors can influence gut
microbiota composition. Recent study demonstrated that
exposure of mice to cold was accompanied to a change
in microbiota taxa and caused browning of white
adipose tissue, with increase of insulin sensitivity and heat
production, in addition to weight loss when compared
to control mice. Transplantation of the cold-adapted
microbiota from cold exposed mice was sufficient to
promote browning of white adipose tissues and to
enhance insulin sensitivity in warm recipient mice [
Also the diet regimen rapidly and efficiently modifies
the relative abundance of specific bacterial taxa [
]. The relevance of this fast, diet-induced
dynamics is demonstrated by the microbial changes that are
observed over 1–2 days when subjects add dietary fibers
to their diet, or consume either a high-fiber and low-fat
diet or a low-fiber and high-fat diet for 10 days [
an evolutionary perspective, these changes were selected
to maximize energy harvested by food. Indeed, microbiota
acts in the intestine as a bioreactor, which permits
degradation of otherwise indigestible dietary fibers (i.e.,
]. Interpersonal variations in the virome are
high, even in co-twins and their mothers sharing similar
fecal bacterial communities [
]. Dietary intervention is
associated with a change in the virome community to a
new state, in which individuals on the same diet converged
]. The functional relevance of this gut virome
modification in metabolic health is, however, still unknown.
Modifications of the gut microbial composition affect
host metabolism. Colonization of adult germ-free mice
with a distal gut microbial community harvested from
conventionally raised healthy mice causes a dramatic
increase in body fat within 10–14 days, despite an associated
decrease in food consumption [
]. Compared with
microbiota of lean persons, intestinal microbial
composition of obese individuals has less diversity [
], and it is
characterized by lower prevalence of Bacteroidetes and a
higher prevalence of Firmicutes [
]. Modification of gut
microbiota, by either cohousing [
] or antibiotic
treatments  or transplantation of fecal microbiota
from obese versus lean subjects, can modify obesity and
metabolic phenotype [
25, 27, 141
]. These results reveal
that transmissible and modifiable interactions between
diet and microbiota influence host biology.
Likewise, gut microbiota composition is in turn
influenced by a wide range of pathologies (e.g., asthma,
arthritis, autism, obesity) [
], and the disease
phenotype can be transferred by microbiota
transplantation. In fact, recent studies suggest that the
microbiome may be a reflection of obesity (or leanness), as
well as a cause of it. When obese people are
maintained to reduced energy intake with diet and lose
weight, the proportion of Bacteroidetes increases
relative to Firmicutes. Conversely, when obese people
resume their previous food consumption and gain
weight, the proportion of Firmicutes increases .
In addition to promoting the absorption of
monosaccharides from the gut lumen, the microbiota from obese
mice selectively suppresses the production of the
circulating lipoprotein lipase inhibitor Fiaf (fasting-induced
adipose factor/angiopoietin-like protein 4/peroxisome
proliferator-activated receptor γ angiopoietin-related
protein), thus inducing de novo hepatic lipogenesis and
deposition of triglycerides in adipocytes and liver [
Specific gut bacterial taxa in obese humans and animals
metabolize faster phosphatidylcholine to choline,
trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), and betaine taken with
diet. TMAO has been shown to accelerate
atherosclerosis by forward cholesterol transport via upregulation of
macrophage scavenger receptors [
Interactions between the host immune system and
gut microbiota prevent the overgrowth of otherwise
under-represented or potentially harmful bacteria (for
example, pathobionts) [
]. On the other hand, gut
microbiota itself shapes the development of the
immune system through a vast range of signaling
pathways . Conventional or germ-free housing
conditions impact peripheral immune system development
in immunocompetent hosts [
Dietary fats increase the bile acid taurocholic,
therefore altering gut microbiota and promoting colitis in
genetically susceptible mouse model [
and in particular Bacteroides fragilis, have been
suggested to promote many immune functions of the host.
The capsular polysaccharide A (PsA) of Bacteroides
fragilis drives differentiation of interleukin-10
(IL-10)-secreting Treg cells. Monocolonization with Bacteroides
fragilis, but not with a mutant lacking PsA, stimulates
dendritic cell IL-12 production and corrects systemic T
cell deficiencies and Th1/Th2 imbalance [
Interaction between amino acid supplementation and gut microbiota
Given the link between gut microbiome and increasing
risk to develop many diseases (e.g. obesity, T2DM,
atherosclerosis), the manipulation of the gut microbiota
might be a plausible strategy to reduce this risk [
Moreover, gut microbiota shows a great plasticity and it
could be mostly modified by different factors, such as
diets or supplements [
Dietary proteins and amino acids are important
substrates for microbial fermentation in the colon [
where they also serve as important nitrogen sources for
the microbiota and support the growth of microbiota
and host [
]. Several research groups have shown that
maternal diet affects the colonization of the gut of pups
], also through epigenetic mechanism [
amino acid intake increases the relative abundance of
]. In particular, supplementation
with BCAAem to middle aged mice (15 months) caused
a significant reduction in the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes
ratio . Notably, this ratio was comparable to the ratio
observed in the 11-month-old mice [
]. In line with
these results, BCAAem supplementation significantly
changed fructose, sucrose, and oleic acid gut
metabolism. Much more information is needed about how the
BCAAem supplementation modulates structural and
functional properties of gut microbiota, and what is the
link with the healthy effects of the BCAAem
supplementation as previously described [
Several common mechanisms are shared by healthy
microbiota and dietary EAAs. Essential amino acids
can increase the expression of intestinal β-defensin,
the endogenous small cationic polypeptide that
functions as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial substance, and
thus potentially the amino acids greatly affect the gut
microbial community composition [
Furthermore, both EAAs and microbiota-derived SCFAs
modulate the overall lipid balance and glucose
]. Similarly, oral administration of BCAAs
or the microbiota-derived butyrate induce a
dosedependent increase in GLP-1 release from enterocyte
110, 149, 150
], and decrease the expression of genes
involved in the intestinal fatty acid transport and
lipogenesis (i.e., acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase).
EAAs may also modify the abundance of gut metabolites
by influencing cholecystokinin production and gallbladder
]. On the other hand, the intestinal
dysbiosis alters gut barrier properties and, thus, it may reduce
the diet-induced healthy effect [
Another point yet to be clarified is whether the
supplementation of specific amino acid mixtures is able to
modify metabolic diseases, including obesity and T2DM,
via gut microbiota modifications, and how this effect can
be permanent. The plasma concentration of some EAAs,
including BCAAs, is higher in obese T2DM patients
than healthy subjects [
]. Obese T2DM patients have
also a peculiar gut microbiota composition [
particular, the depletion of species from the Bacteroides
genus in obese individuals is related to higher plasma
concentration of BCAAs [
]. Of particular interest is
the possibility that a subset of gut microbial communities
directly synthetized EAAs by themselves, EAAs that
would be subsequently absorbed by the intestinal mucosa.
Many components of the gut microbiota possess the
enzyme to directly synthetize essential amino acids [
]. Indeed, the gut microbiota from obese subject
synthetizes BCAAs, while it strongly decreases BCAA
catabolism . Thus, the plasma EAA concentrations
may be not entirely the consequence of oral EAA intake.
On the other hand, oral EAA administration may modify
gut microbiota and, consequently, modify (i.e., reduce)
paradoxically the plasma EAA concentrations.
Human body metabolism is the result of complex
interactions between genetic, epigenetic, and environmental
(primarily dietary and lifestyle) factors [
microbiota controls metabolism through physiologically
important biochemical circuits, which are parts of energy
consumption, storage, and distribution . Gut microbiota
plays key roles in controlling body metabolism, resistance to
infections, and inflammation, as well as preventing
autoimmunity disorders and cancer [
18, 20, 38
Brain-gut axis represents an important
communication system that regulates whole body energy balance.
Information exchange between gut and brain is
essential for mammals to adapt to changing environments
]. EAA supplementation has been shown to
improve the health span and metabolic health , by
reducing body weight [
], increasing immune
], promoting mitochondrial
], preventing oxidative damage , and
enhancing muscle protein synthesis and physical
Many aspects of amino acid effects on gut microbiota
remain to be addressed, for example, whether the different
effects of EAAs, acting either in catabolic or anabolic
conditions, may be partially attributed to differences of the
gut microbiota composition in these metabolic conditions.
Moreover, whether EAAs through gut microbiota play
some roles in human development, a number of
hypotheses about microbial contributions to human development
have been proposed in the past decade. One hypothesis is
that maternal microbial ecology affects pregnancy, fetal
development, and the future health of offspring [
Maternal vaginal, gut, and oral microbiota have relevant
impact on fetal nutrition and development [
of maternal microbiota are thought to contribute to
gestational adverse events, such as the preterm delivery. A
compelling question is whether EAA supplements may
favorably change the properties of the vaginal and gut
microbes before, during, and after pregnancy. A recent study
has shown that microbial community structure and
function expand and diversify in all body sites from birth to
age 4–6 weeks, and it then resembles microbiota from the
corresponding maternal body site [
]. A related
question is whether microbes associated with breast milk,
which are highly personalized assemblages [
colonize the infant colon, such as some anaerobic species
(Bifidobacterium), may be modified by maternal
supplementation with EAAs. For example, specific EAA
formulas might support growth of bifidobacterial subspecies
important for infant gut barrier development and function
], improved vaccine responses, such as the
Bifidobacterium longum subsp. Infantis [
], or production of
essential nutrients, including folate and riboflavin [
Completely undefined in infant development is the role of
father’s microbiota and its changes, potentially induced by
diet and dietary supplements.
Little is known about the influence of gender on gut
microbiota composition, and how this factor can affect
the efficacy of amino acid supplements [
studies have been conducted to investigate the role that
sex plays in development and age-related changes of
microbiota composition, increasingly evident starting at
puberty and most defined in adult and aged subjects
. It seems that males and females are uniquely
susceptible to factors that shape the microbiota after
birth. Male microbiota, in fact, provides
testosteronedependent protection from T1DM in a model of
nonobese diabetic mice [
Several findings suggest bidirectional communication
between the gut and the brain in behavioral, psychiatric,
and neurodegenerative disorders. The microbiota
regulates, in fact, expression of the 5-hydroxytryptamine
receptor (5-HT1A), brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF),
and NMDA receptor subunit 2 (NR2A) [
anxiety, hyperactivity, depression, nociception, and autism
spectrum disorder are among the other psychiatric
disorders to be linked to intestinal microbial communities
]. Although the BCAAs do not act as direct
precursors for neurotransmitters, they can affect transport of
large neutral amino acids (LNAAs), including the BCAAs,
across the blood–brain barrier, and thereby influence CNS
concentrations of diverse neurotransmitters [
can also be catalyzed in the astrocyte to produce glutamate
and branched-chain α-keto acids, which are further taken
up by neurons [
]. With the aim to reduce brain
tyrosine uptake, BCAAs were given to bipolar subjects during
periods of mania [
]. Sixty grams BCAAs were
administered daily for 7 days and produced a significant reduction
in manic symptoms, consistent with an effect on brain
catecholamine. Gut microbiota might be hypothesized to play
some role in this effect.
The gut microbes have recently been reported to
promote α-synuclein pathology, neuroinflammation, and
characteristic motor symptoms in a validated mouse
model of Parkinson disease (PD). Notably, fecal
microbes from PD patients impair motor function
significantly more than microbiota from healthy controls
when transplanted into mice [
]. Analogously, specific
microbe ensembles influence stroke recovery in mice
], and amino acid supplements may potentiate
Although a body of knowledge is accumulating that
suggests potential interactions between EAAs and gut
microbiota and their effects on metabolic health and
health span, the complex interplay between dietary
amino acids and intestinal microbes remains largely
unknown. In particular, it remains to be addressed whether
the different effects of EAAs, acting either in catabolic
or anabolic conditions, may be partially attributed also
to differences in gut microbiota composition in these
metabolic conditions. Furthermore, based on the current
knowledge, the effects and metabolic fate of the dietary
EAAs can be largely modified by different gut
microbiota ensembles. Both EAA diet supplementation and
gut microbiota contribute to human health acting at a
systemic level. The precise interplay and the nature of
their interactions are still poorly understood and they
may help to predict more accurately the therapeutic
effect of nutraceutical interventions with specific amino
Conclusions and future perspectives
Studies of the human gut microbiota have changed how
researchers view the pathophysiology of widely diffused
metabolic disorders, particularly those linked to age.
Humans co-evolved with a web of thousands of microbes,
including not only bacteria, but also viruses, fungi and
unicellular organisms called Archaea, with which strict
relationship exists. Human intestine provides a comfortable
environment and nutrients for microbes, and they digest
food for us; in addition, they keep away pathogen
microbes, synthesize vitamins, organize immune function,
and transfer important messages to brain. Thus, it is
possible that metabolic problems in humans could be
managed with adequate care of the gut microbiota. Since the
disturbance of microbial ecology and eco-systems are
crucial for physiology in different human life periods, the
knowledge of diet and dietary supplement impact on the
gut microbiota might be very important for health. Dietary
fibers and prebiotics—i.e., substances that induce the
growth or activity of microorganisms contributing to the
wellbeing of their host—are known to influence health in
children and adults. We hypothesize that specific amino
acid mixtures are likely to be of benefit to people who
follow a typical Western-style diet, in addition to dietary
fiber and prebiotics. A deeper understanding of the efficacy
of such dietary supplements to maintain gut microbiota
has the potential to contribute important therapeutic tools
in human metabolic health and weight control.
5-HT1A: 5-Hydroxytryptamine receptor 1A; AKT: Serine-threonine protein
kinase; AMPK: 5′ Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase;
BCAAem: BCAA-enriched mixture; BCAAs: Branched-chain amino acids;
BDNF: Brain-derived growth factor; EAAs: Essential amino acids;
GLP1: Glucagon-like peptide 1; GPR41: G protein-coupled receptor 41; GPR43: G
protein-coupled receptor 43; IL: Interleukin 10; LNAAs: Large neutral amino
acids; mTOR: Mechanistic target of rapamycin; NR2A: N-methyl-D-aspartate
receptor subunit 2; PD: Parkinson disease; PsA: Polysaccharide A;
rRNA: Ribosomal ribonucleic acid; SCFAs: Short-chain fatty acids; T2DM: Type
2 diabetes mellitus; TMAO: Trimethylamine N-oxide; Treg: Regulatory T cell
This study was supported by the Cariplo Foundation, Italy [grant no.
2013-0786 and 2016-1006]. The funding body has not had any role in the
design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.
Availability of data and materials
All authors contributed to article writing and revision. All authors read and
approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
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