In the present study, we performed a meta-analysis to assess the ability of leucine supplementation to increase the muscle protein fraction synthetic rate and to augment lean body mass or leg lean mass in elderly patients. A literature search was conducted on Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE and Google Scholar databases up to 31 December 2013 for clinical trials that investigated the administration of leucine as a nutrient that affects muscle protein metabolism and muscle mass in elderly subjects. The included studies were randomised controlled trials. The primary outcome for the meta-analysis was the protein fractional synthetic rate. Secondary outcomes included lean body mass and leg lean mass. A total of nine studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results showed that the muscle protein fractional synthetic rate after intervention significantly increased in the leucine group compared with the control group (pooled standardised difference in mean changes 1·08, 95 % CI 0·50, 1·67; P< 0·001). No difference was found between the groups in relation to lean body mass (pooled standardised difference in mean changes 0·18, 95 % CI − 0·18, 0·54; P= 0·318) or leg lean mass (pooled standardised difference in mean changes 0·006, 95 % CI − 0·32, 0·44; P= 0·756). These findings suggest that leucine supplementation is useful to address the age-related decline in muscle mass in elderly individuals, as it increases the muscle protein fractional synthetic rate.