HMB plus D3 improves muscle function in elderly cohort

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Prostock-Studio
©Getty Images - Prostock-Studio

Related tags Sports nutrition Sports nutrition products healthy aging Protein

A new study shows that HMB combined with vitamin D3 can help elderly subjects improve muscle function even in the absence of exercise.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was conducted at Iowa State University. The study builds on decades of research on HMB, which was discovered by experts who went on to found Metabolic Technologies and who participated in the current study.

Metabolic Technologies is now part of TSI USA, which markets the ingredient under the myHMB brand name.

Long research history

HMB, or β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, is naturally produced in the body during the metabolism of the essential amino acid leucine, which is found in virtually all protein sources. It has been studied as a standalone ingredient since the 1990s.

TSI president Larry Kolb said research done on myHMB has shown that HMB supplementation can lead to beneficial results. “The results indicate that supplying HMB promotes advantageous changes in body composition and stimulates an increase in aerobic capacity,”​ he said.

Healthy subjects who were low on Vitamin D

In the present study, which was published in the Journals of Gerontology​, researchers recruited healthy subjects who were 60 and older.  One intake criterion was for the subjects to be low on the vitamin D scale but not clinically deficient, with baseline 25OH-D levels between 15 and 30 ng/mL.  Previous research had shown that subjects with higher levels of vitamin D in their systems responded better to the HMB intervention.

The study lasted 12 months. The participants were divided into four groups, one arm consisting of placebo and intervention groups that did three weekly training sessions per week and another arm that did no exercise.  The training sessions began with exercise bands and progressed to weight machines as the subjects gained strength.  The protocol called for higher reps with lower weight.

The gain in muscle function was measured by various tests such as how many times a subject could stand up from a chair without pushing off with the hands in a given period of time.  Another timed test had subjects stand up from the chair, walk 10 meters and sit back down.  Additional muscle strength tests were performed, and other tests measured cognitive function as well as blood markers.  Subjects were tested at baseline and at 3, 6 and 12 months.  The supplemented groups received 3 grams of HMB and 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day.  A total of 117 subjects completed the study.

HMB plus D3 benefits non exercisers

The researchers saw improvements with the HMB/Vitamin D3 supplementation in the non exercise group.  The exercisers did not show a statistically significant change.

“The main finding of this study was that co-supplementation with calcium HMB and Vitamin D3 to healthy older adults improved the composite functional strength index and that this benefit was independent of a moderate resistance exercise program similar to that commonly practiced by older population on their own,”​ the researchers concluded.

Benefits for frail seniors

Chief researcher John Rathmacher, PhD, said the finding could be of benefit for older seniors who for one reason or another cannot exercise as much as it is recommended they do.

“The population we studied was a healthy population, but I think it could be beneficial for an older population that is more frail.  It could be of benefit for subjects trying to maintain their strength after cancer treatment, for example,” ​he said.

Kolb said that with this added evidence, the ingredient could be well positioned to help consumers during this unusual time of pandemic-induced social distancing.

“We think it will have a lot of applicability to seniors who are quarantined in certain facilities who are not able to maintain a level of exercise.  We think the timing of this could be really good,” ​he said.

Source:Journals of Gerontology
Long-term Effects of Calcium β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) and Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Muscular Function in Older Adults with and without Resistance Training: A Randomized, Double-blind, Controlled Study
Authors: Rathmacher JA, et al.

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