BACKGROUND Dietary changes have led to the growing prevalence of type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. A hallmark of both disorders is hepatic lipid accumulation, derived in part from increased de novo lipogenesis. Despite the popularity of high-protein diets for weight loss, the effect of dietary protein on de novo lipogenesis is poorly studied. We aimed to characterize the effect of dietary protein on de novo lipid synthesis.METHODS We use a 3-way crossover interventional study in healthy males to determine the effect of high-protein feeding on de novo lipogenesis, combined with in vitro models to determine the lipogenic effects of specific amino acids. The primary outcome was a change in de novo lipogenesis–associated triglycerides in response to protein feeding.RESULTS We demonstrate that high-protein feeding, rich in glutamate, increases de novo lipogenesis–associated triglycerides in plasma (1.5-fold compared with control; P < 0.0001) and liver-derived very low-density lipoprotein particles (1.8-fold; P < 0.0001) in samples from human subjects (n = 9 per group). In hepatocytes, we show that glutamate-derived carbon is incorporated into triglycerides via palmitate. In addition, supplementation with glutamate, glutamine, and leucine, but not lysine, increased triglyceride synthesis and decreased glucose uptake. Glutamate, glutamine, and leucine increased activation of protein kinase B, suggesting that induction of de novo lipogenesis occurs via the insulin signaling cascade.CONCLUSION These findings provide mechanistic insight into how select amino acids induce de novo lipogenesis and insulin resistance, suggesting that high-protein feeding to tackle diabetes and obesity requires greater consideration.FUNDING The research was supported by UK Medical Research Council grants MR/P011705/1, MC_UP_A090_1006 and MR/P01836X/1. JLG is supported by the Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).


Evelina Charidemou, Tom Ashmore, Xuefei Li, Ben D. McNally, James A. West, Sonia Liggi, Matthew Harvey, Elise Orford, Julian L. Griffin


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