Parsing the life-shortening effects of dietary protein: Effects of individual amino acids

Sara Arganda*, Sofia Bouchebti, Sepideh Bazazi, Sophie Le Hesran, Camille Puga, Gérard Latil, Stephen J. Simpson, Audrey Dussutour

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


High-protein diets shorten lifespan in many organisms. Is it because protein digestion is energetically costly or because the final products (the amino acids) are harmful? To answer this question while circumventing the lifehistory trade-off between reproduction and longevity, we fed sterile ant workers on diets based on whole proteins or free amino acids. We found that (i) free amino acids shortened lifespan even more than proteins; (ii) the higher the amino acid-to-carbohydrate ratio, the shorter ants lived and the lower their lipid reserves; (iii) for the same amino acid-to-carbohydrate ratio, ants eating free amino acids had more lipid reserves than those eating whole proteins; and (iv) on whole protein diets, ants seem to regulate food intake by prioritizing sugar, while on free amino acid diets, they seem to prioritize amino acids. To test the effect of the amino acid profile,we tested diets containing proportions of each amino acid that matched the ant’s exome; surprisingly, longevitywas unaffected by this change.We further tested diets with all amino acids under-represented except one, finding that methionine, serine, threonine and phenylalanine are especially harmful. All together, our results showcertain amino acids are key elements behind the high-protein diet reduction in lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20162052
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1846
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Argentine ants
  • Free amino acids
  • Lifespan
  • Nutrition
  • Protein


Dive into the research topics of 'Parsing the life-shortening effects of dietary protein: Effects of individual amino acids'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this