Effect of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, arginine, and lysine supplementation on strength, functionality, body composition, and protein metabolism in elderly women

Nutrition. 2004 May;20(5):445-51. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.01.009.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Arginine / administration & dosage
  • Body Composition*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lysine / administration & dosage
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Postmenopause
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Valerates / administration & dosage


  • Amino Acids
  • Valerates
  • beta-hydroxyisovaleric acid
  • Arginine
  • Lysine