Last update on 6 May 2013 by Dr Cécile Loï

Citrulline: improves muscle protein content


Protein energy malnutrition is common in the elderly, especially in hospitalized patients. The development of strategies designed to correct such malnutrition is essential. Our working hypothesis was that poor response to nutrition with advancing age might be related to splanchnic sequestration of amino acids, which implies that fewer amino acids reach the systemic circulation. Administration of citrulline, which is not taken up by the liver, can offer a means of increasing whole body nitrogen availability and, hence, improve nutritional status. Thirty old (19 mo) rats were submitted to dietary restriction (50% of food intake) for 12 wk. They were randomized into three groups: 10 rats (R group) were killed and 20 others refed (90% of food intake) for 1 wk with a standard diet (NEAA group) or a citrulline-supplemented diet (Cit group). Before being killed, the rats were injected with [13C]valine, and the absolute protein synthesis rate (ASR) was measured in the tibialis using the flooding-dose method. When the rats were killed, the tibialis was removed for protein content analysis. Blood was sampled for amino acid and insulin analysis. The standard diet did not have any effect on protein synthesis or on the protein content in the muscle. Citrulline supplementation led to higher protein synthesis and protein content in muscle (117 ± 9, 120 ± 14, and 163 ± 4 mg/organ for protein content in R, NEAA, and Cit groups, P < 0.05). The ASR were 0.30 ± 0.04, 0.31 ± 0.04, and 0.56 ± 0.10 mg/h in the three groups, respectively (R and NEAA vs. Cit, P < 0.05). Insulinemia was significantly higher in the Cit group. For the first time, a realistic therapeutic approach is proposed to improve muscle protein content in muscle in frail state related to malnutrition in aging.


Scientific publications : Citrulline modulates muscle protein metabolism in old malnourished rats. Osowska S, DuchemannT, Walrand S, Paillard A, Boirie Y, Cynober L, Moinard C. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006. 291:E582-E586

Others studies about citrulline

ProteoCIT for the dietary management of sarcopenia or malnutrition, especially among frail elderly.

» ProteoCIT