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Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methyl Butyrate (HMB): From Experimental Data to Clinical Evidence in Sarcopenia

[ Vol. 19 , Issue. 7 ]


Alfonso J. Cruz-Jentoft*   Pages 668 - 672 ( 5 )


β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) is a metabolite derived from leucine and its ketoacid alpha- ketoisocaproate. Leucine has a role in regulating protein synthesis in muscle cells, and HMB seems to be a key active metabolite in such regulation. HMB has been shown to modulate muscle protein degradation by inhibiting the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway, to up-regulate protein synthesis via the mTOR pathway, and to stabilize cell membranes via the rate limiting enzyme to cholesterol synthesis HMG- coenzyme A reductase. It can also decrease cell apoptosis, therefore improving cell survival; and increase proliferation and differentiation of muscle stem cell, via the MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways.

HMB is widely used as an ergogenic supplement by athletes and bodybuilders, usually combined with exercise training, to increase muscle mass and strength. Some studies have explored the role of HMB in chronic diseases associated with muscle wasting (cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

This review focuses on the role of HMB in the management of sarcopenia (age or disease-related loss of muscle mass and function) in older persons. A small number of studies have shown increases in lean (muscle) mass and some muscle function and physical performance parameters in older people with or without resistance exercise, and preservation of muscle mass during bed rest. However, heterogeneous methodological approaches preclude solid conclusions, and more studies are needed to confirm the role of HMB as a promising agent to treat sarcopenia.


Beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate, elderly, muscle function, muscle mass, muscle wasting, leucine, sarcopenia.


Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal (Irycis), Madrid

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