Objective: With advancing age, there is a gradual loss of muscle mass, strength, and functionality. The current studies were conducted to determine whether a mixture of specific nutrients, arginine and lysine, which support protein synthesis, and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), which can slow protein breakdown, could blunt the gradual loss of muscle that occurs in the elderly, thus improving strength and functionality.
Methods: In double-blind studies conducted at two separate sites, women (mean 76.7 y) were randomized to a placebo group (n = 23) or an experimental treatment group (2 g beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, 5 g arginine, and 1.5 g lysine daily; n = 27).
Results: After 12 wk, there was a 17% improvement in the "get-up-and-go" functionality test in the experimental group (-2.3 +/- 0.5 s) but no change in the placebo group (0.0 +/- 0.5 s; P = 0.002). The improvement in functionality also was reflected by increased limb circumference, leg strength, and handgrip strength (all P < 0.05) and positive trends in fat-free mass (P = 0.08). Whole-body protein synthesis, estimated with the (15)N-glycine tracer technique over a 24-h free-living period, increased approximately 20% in the experimental treatment group as opposed to the placebo group (P = 0.03).
Conclusion: These studies indicated that daily supplementation of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, arginine, and lysine for 12 wk positively alters measurements of functionality, strength, fat-free mass, and protein synthesis, suggesting that the strategy of targeted nutrition has the ability to affect muscle health in elderly women.