Branched-chain aminoacids and retraining of patients with chronic obstructive lung disease

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2001 Dec;41(4):500-4.


Background: The aim of this work was to improve the efficacy of rehabilitation by retraining, by oral supply in branched-chain aminoacids (BCAA). Patients with chronic respiratory insufficiency mainly suffer from obstructive bronchitis due to tobacco or asthma. Nutritional assessment is one of the components of respiratory rehabilitation, with retraining. Intense physical training for several days negativates the nitrogen balance, the beginning of a training programme for sedentary patients increases their need in proteins. An additional supply in branched-chain aminoacids increases proteic anabolism, by synthesis increase and catabolism slackening of proteins. Moreover it is known that exposure to high altitude reduces lean mass by inducing a muscular atrophy, which can be avoided by the BCAA provided. This leads to wonder if extra supply of BCAA could play similar role in muscular mass loss induced by pathological chronic hypoxia.

Methods: The prospective and comparative survey carried out in Toki-Eder (private hospital in Cambo) consisted in supplying (during five weeks or more) 30 retrained patients suffering from chronic obstructive bronchitis, and in matching them with 30 witnesses (obstructive patients retrained without additional supply in BCAA). Their mean hypoxemia amounted to 7 torr for age.

Results: Each of them improved their reached maximal power, and their VO2 SL, very highly significantly. Each of them developed a moderate metabolic acidosis (whose possible mechanisms are discussed) and slightly increased their ventilation at rest. On the other hand only the supplied patients improved their PaO2 at rest highly significantly, a result which poses the question of the responsible mechanism, most likely a decrease of pulmonary shunt effect. The hypotheses concerning the acid load due to BCAA ingestion are discussed. Only the supplied patients developed hypocapnia expressing a gaseous alkalosis which might be due to a direct effect of BCAA on the respiratory centers.

Conclusions: This observation could have practical outcomes in the management of rehabilitation of chronic respiratory insufficiency: it should be useful to systematically supplement the patients with BCAA during their retraining in order to obtain a more effective improvement of their respiratory function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain* / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchitis, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Bronchitis, Chronic / rehabilitation*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain