Branched-Chain Amino Acids

18/Description

About

Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains from proteins found in food, especially meat, dairy products, and legumes. They include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of these amino acids. People use branched-chain amino acids for medicine.

Branched-chain amino acids are used to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), brain conditions due to liver disease (chronic hepatic encephalopathy, latent hepatic encephalopathy), a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia, a genetic disease called McArdle's disease, a disease called spinocerebellar degeneration, and poor appetite in elderly kidney failure patients and cancer patients. Branched-chain amino acids are also used to help slow muscle wasting in people who are confined to bed.

Some people use branched-chain amino acids to prevent fatigue and improve concentration.

Athletes use branched-chain amino acids to improve exercise performance and reduce protein and muscle breakdown during intense exercise.

Healthcare providers give branched-chain amino acids intravenously (by IV) for sudden brain swelling due to liver disease (acute hepatic encephalopathy) and also when the body has been under extreme stress, for example after serious injury or widespread infection.

How it works

Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly reduce muscle breakdown. Branched-chain amino acids seem to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease, mania, tardive dyskinesia, and anorexia.

Effectiveness

Possibly Effective
Anorexia

Taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth seems to reduce anorexia and improve overall nutrition in older, undernourished people. There is also early evidence that taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth might be helpful for people with anorexia that is associated with cancer or liver disease.

Poor brain function related to liver disease

Although there are some conflicting results, most research suggests that taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth can improve liver and brain function in people with poor brain function caused by liver disease.

Mania

Consuming a drink containing the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine seems to reduce symptoms of mania.

Muscle breakdown

Taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth seems to reduce the breakdown of muscles during exercise

Movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia

Taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth seems to reduce symptoms of the muscle disorder called tardive dyskinesia.

Concerns

Likely safe

Branched-chain amino acids are LIKELY SAFE when injected intravenously (by IV) by a healthcare professional

Possibly safe

Branched-chain amino acids are POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Some side effects are known to occur, such as fatigue and loss of coordination. Branched-chain amino acids should be used cautiously before or during activities where performance depends on motor coordination, such as driving.

18/Warnings

Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking branched-chain amino acids if you arepregnantorbreast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Branched-chain amino acids are POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth, short-term. Branched-chain amino acids have been used safely in children for up to 6 months.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease): The use of branched-chain amino acids has been linked with lung failure and higher death rates when used in patients with ALS. If you have ALS, do not use branched-chain amino acids until more is known.

Branched-chain ketoaciduria: Seizures and severe mental and physical retardation can result if intake of branched-chain amino acids is increased. Don't use branched-chain amino acids if you have this condition.

Chronic alcoholism: Dietary use of branched-chain amino acids in alcoholics has been associated with liver disease leading to brain damage (hepatic encephalopathy).

Low blood sugar in infants: Intake of one of the branched-chain amino acids, leucine, has been reported to lower blood sugar in infants with a condition called idiopathic hypoglycemia. This term means they have low blood sugar, but the cause is unknown. Some research suggests leucine causes the pancreas to release insulin, and this lowers blood sugar.

Surgery: Branched-chain amino acids might affect blood sugar levels, and this might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using branched-chain amino acids at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Interactions

Always consult with your doctor.
Moderate
Levodopa

Branched-chain amino acids might decrease how much levodopa the body absorbs. By decreasing how much levodopa the body absorbs, branched-chain amino acids might decrease the effectiveness of levodopa. Do not take branched-chain amino acids and levodopa at the same time.

Minor
Diazoxide (Hyperstat, Proglycem)

Branched-chain amino acids might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking branched-chain amino acids along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.Branched-chain amino acids are used to help make proteins in the body. Taking diazoxide along with branched-chain amino acids might decrease the effects of branched-chain amino acids on proteins. More information is needed about this interaction.

Medications for inflammation (Corticosteroids)

Branched-chain amino acids are used to help make proteins in the body. Taking drugs called glucocorticoids along with branched-chain amino acids might decrease the effects of branched-chain amino acids on proteins. More information is needed about this interaction.

The information provided on this page is for reference purposes and is not meant to be used as a medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with a medical professional.