We are what we eat, but also what we drink. For this reason, in recent years, the scientific community has been studying not only what effects food causes in our body, but also what happens when we take certain vitamins or nutritional supplements in the form of pills or powders… beyond what they are intended for.
Some recent findings suggest that taking vitamin D, which traditionally helps strengthen bones, could also reduce heart attacks or even the risk of death from cancer by 12%. Similarly, groundbreaking research looked at what happens to the body of a man over the age of 60 if he takes multivitamin supplements every day, testing changes even at the cellular level.
Now, a new study published in Cell Reports has discovered that a sports supplement widely used by bodybuilders to increase muscle, it can have benefits at the cognitive level, both for memory and to keep the Alzheimer disease.
Alzheimer’s, one of the most famous causes of dementia, affects more than 50 million people worldwide. Currently, there is no cure. That is why scientists are looking new and safe approaches to treat your symptoms, including memory loss.
Researchers at RUSH Medical College—a medical school located in Chicago, Illinois (United States)—have discovered that the muscle-building supplement called beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate and known as HMB it can help protect memory, reduce plaques, and ultimately help prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
HMB, also known as beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, is a natural compound vital to the health of our muscles. Our body produces it by breaking down leucine, an amino acid that comes from protein-rich foods; this metabolite is also found in small amounts in foods such as avocado, grapefruit or broccoli.
On the other hand, HMB is not a prescription drug or a steroid, but an over-the-counter supplement available in stores of sports and fitness. It is commonly used by bodybuilders to increase exercise-induced muscle size and strength while enhancing performance. HMB is considered safe even after prolonged use, with no known side effects.
A promising treatment pathway
“This can be one of the safest and easiest approaches to stop the progression of the disease and protect the memory of Alzheimer’s patients,” says Kalipada Pahan, MD, Professor of Neurology, as well as Professor of Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry and Pharmacology at RUSH Medical College.
The studies in mice with Alzheimer’s have shown that HMB successfully reduces plaques associated with this disease and increases neuronal growth factors to protect learning and memory, according to the researchers. “Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs that protect the brain and stop the progression of Alzheimer’s,” says Pahan.
Previous studies indicate that a family of proteins known as neurotrophic factors it is dramatically decreased in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, and has been found to help the survival and function of neurons, which are cells that receive and send messages from the body to the brain and vice versa.
“Our study found that after oral consumption, HMB penetrates the brain to increase these beneficial proteins, restore neural connections and improve memory and learning in mice with Alzheimer’s-like pathology, such as plaques and tangles,” explains Pahan.
The results indicate that HMB stimulates a nuclear hormone receptor in the brain called PPAR, which regulates the transport of fatty acids, which is key to the success of HMB as a neuroprotective supplement. “If the results obtained in mice with HMB are reproduced in Alzheimer’s patients, would open up a promising avenue for the treatment of this devastating disease neurodegenerative disease,” concludes Pahan.