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An unlikely ally? Bodybuilding supplement may protect against Alzheimer’s

Article-An unlikely ally? Bodybuilding supplement may protect against Alzheimer’s

© AdobeStock/Restyler An unlikely ally? Bodybuilding supplement may protect against Alzheimer’s
A muscle-building supplement popular with bodybuilders may hold the secret to protecting memory in older age, say US scientists.

Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), commonly used by bodybuilders to increase gains in muscle size and strength while improving exercise performance, may help to preserve memory, reduce plaques and, ultimately, prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

HMB, an over-the-counter supplement that is available in sports and fitness stores, is considered safe even following long-term use and has no known side effects.

This may be one of the safest, the easiest, and economical approaches to halt disease progression and protect memory in Alzheimer’s disease patients,” Kalipada Pahan, professor of neurological sciences, biochemistry, and pharmacology and the Floyd A Davis, MD, Endowed Chair in Neurology at Rush, told Vitafoods Insights.

HMB reduces brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s

The researchers highlighted studies in mice with Alzheimer’s disease as showing that HMB successfully reduces plaques and increases factors for neuronal growth to protect learning and memory.

Asked about the mechanism behind this, Pahan told Vitafoods Insights: “A family of proteins known as neurotrophic factors help in survival and function of neurons. It has been found that after oral administration, HMB increases these beneficial proteins in the brain.”

Previous studies indicate that neurotrophic factors are drastically decreased in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and have been found to help in survival and function of neurons – the cells that receive and send messages between the body and the brain.

“Our study found that after oral consumption, HMB enters into the brain to increase these beneficial proteins, restore neuronal connections, and improve memory and learning in mice with Alzheimer’s-like pathology, such as plaques and tangles,” Pahan said.

The findings indicate that HMB stimulates a nuclear hormone receptor called PPARα within the brain that regulates the transport of fatty acids, which is crucial to the success of HMB as a neuroprotective supplement.

© AdobeStock/MarharytaAn unlikely ally? Bodybuilding supplement may protect against Alzheimer’s

“If mouse results with HMB are replicated in Alzheimer’s disease patients, it would open up a promising avenue of treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” Pahan added.

HMB may be used as a therapeutic supplement’ in Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, is the most common cause of dementia among older people. As many as 55 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2020, with this figure expected to rise to 78 million by 2030.

The study, which was published in Cell Reports, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“We describe that oral HMB is capable of improving hippocampal plasticity, restoring cognitive functions, and reducing plaque load in 5XFAD mouse models of AD. Since HMB is a non-toxic and easily available supplement, these results suggest that oral HMB may be used as a therapeutic supplement in patients with AD and MCI,” the authors write.

Asked where research in this area should focus next, Pahan said: “Now, our goal is to find out if oral HMB protects cognitive functions in elderly population with mild cognitive impairment.”