Rationale: Prior studies had suggested (a) that a lessened ability to clear ingested forms of the large neutral amino acid (LNAA), phenylalanine (Phe), was associated with having tardive dyskinesia (TD), and (b) that greater availability of a group of LNAA, the branched chain amino acids (BCAA), concomitant with the lower availability of Phe to the brain are associated with a decrease in TD symptoms. The present study was then conducted to test whether increasing the daily intake of the BCAA would decrease the symptoms of TD.
Methods: A 2-week trial of a BCAA medical food administered three times a day was conducted in nine men with long neuroleptic treatment histories. Frequency counts of TD movements were collected by videotape throughout the trial and these tapes were analyzed in blind random sequence for both patient and time for TD symptom level changes subsequent to completion of the trial. Plasma levels of the LNAA were also collected throughout the trial.
Results: A statistically significant decrease in the level of TD symptoms was observed for the sample. The symptom changes were also clinically significant in that six of the nine subjects had symptom decreases of at least 58%, with all subjects having a decrease of at least 38%. BCAA administration increased plasma BCAA concentrations and BCAA/LNAA ratios and decreased plasma Phe concentrations and the Phe/LNAA ratio. Analyses indicated a strong significant correlation between the percent increase in the plasma BCAA values at the first administration and the percent improvement in TD over the trial in eight of the nine subjects.
Conclusions: The BCAA show promise as a treatment for TD. The decrease in TD symptoms seen in the trial may have been modulated by the BCAA treatment-induced increased availability of the BCAA and decreased availability of Phe to the brain.