Tag Archives: branched-chain amino acid

BCAA’s: Branched-Chain Amino Acids To Treat Muscle Control

Supplements containing branched-chain amino acids are taken to treat a wide variety of conditions. They are perhaps best known for their effect on muscle formation and control, but are also often taken to improve nutrition.

Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules which combine to create protein. Protein is an essential part of our nutrition: needed for our internal organs, our brains, our muscles, and also our immune system.

We get some amino acids—essential amino acids–from food, and others—non-essential amino acids–are synthesized in our bodies. A healthy diet must contain amino acids.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids. They are found in meat, dairy products, eggs, soy protein, and legumes. Vegans must therefore make sure they are getting enough BCAAs if their diets do not contain any animal proteins. BCAAs are also available as supplements.

BCAA supplements for muscle control

Athletes sometimes use branched-chain amino acids to improve performance, as the amino acids prevent muscle breakdown during intense exercise.

The muscle control properties of BCAAs mean that they are also used for people with advanced liver disease. Advanced liver disease can cause a reduction in muscle control. Similarly, some antipsychotic medications affect muscle control, and BCAAs may be taken by patients to reduce these unwanted muscle movements.

BCAAs are sometimes taken by people confined to bed, as BCAAs prevent muscle wasting.

Warnings for BCAA supplements

You should not take supplements without discussing them with you doctor, particularly if you are taking any medications. Some BCAAs could interact with your medications. For example, BCAAs could lower blood sugar, which could interact with diabetes medications.

Levodopa also interacts with BCAAs, so if you are taking this drug (for example, for Parkinson’s disease) you must consult with your doctor before taking BCAA supplements.

Sources: WebMD Branched-chain amino acids

Amino Acids – Their Role in Aggressive Brain Cancer

There is an enzyme that causes the breakdown of certain amino acids, which makes brain cancer aggressive. Scientists have discussed their findings in the Nature Medicine journal. These researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) were looking for new kinds of therapies against aggressive brain cancer when they discovered the amino acids hunger is increased in certain forms of brain cancer.

Tumors that grow quickly and aggressively need more energy feeding them than regular (non-aggressive) brain cancer tumors. Tumors also need the right molecular building blocks to build the components of the cells in order to grow. Cancer is now known to feed on sugar (glucose), and some tumors can also catabolize glutamine, which is an amino acid.

Amino acids and role of enzymes in aggressive tumors

Primary glioblastomas are extremely malignant brain tumors. Glioblastomas also have a connection with the two enzymes BCAT1 and IDH (isocitrate dehydrogenase) because these enzymes cooperate together in decomposing branched-chain amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and these proteins can act as a food sources that increase the hunger, or aggressiveness, of cancer cells. For the first time, these scientists have been able to show that branched-chain amino acids have a significant role in the aggressive growth of certain malignant tumors.

Some years ago some researchers found gene coding mutations in IDH for a number of types of brain cancers, such as glioblastomas. If they lacked the IDH gene, then they would grow more slowly due to being defective. Radlwimmer, from the German Cancer Research Center, said that, “we can see that overexpression of BCAT1 contributes to the aggressiveness of glioblastoma cells.”

Their team compared the activity of genes from several hundred brain tumors to find out if intact or altered IDH enzymes had characteristics that might explain the aggressive tumor growth. They did, in fact, find a significance difference between two groups studied. The BCAT1 enzyme in a normal brain breaks down branched-chain amino acids, producing ketoglutarate (BCAT1 needs this molecule). So only intact IDH in tumor cells have the BCAT1 enzyme, so Bernhard Radlwimmer says, “The two enzymes seem to form a kind of functional unit in amino acid catabolism.”

Glioblastomas are what makes the brain cancer tumors particularly aggressive, and when the effects of BCAT1 is blocked, the tumor cells lose their capacity to grow or invade the healthy brain tissue. Also, at that point the cells also release less of the amino acid neurotransmitter—glutamate. When someone has brain cancer they often will get epileptic seizures, which are associated with high glutamate amino acid levels.

Because of this association, and how the researchers understand it now, agents are being searched for to target against the enzymes that are responsible for the aggressive tumor growth. BCAT1 expression is also being studied since it may be a marker to help diagnose brain cancer malignancy.



Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Help Liver Patients

Supplements containing branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) granules improved the outcome for patients with liver disease.

Liver cirrhosis is caused by advanced liver disease. The liver tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, resulting in a loss of liver function. This loss of liver function causes fluids to be retained in the abdominal cavity, leading to massive swelling and greatly reducing quality of life.

Liver cirrhosis can also lead to esophageal varices, which are dilated veins in the bottom of the esophagus. The dilated veins are formed when the blood flow through the liver is disrupted due to liver scarring. These veins often bleed, and must be treated with endoscopy.

The cirrhosis and complications results in lack of nutrition for the patient, as nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Nutritional supplements are therefore part of the treatment.

An article in J Gastroenterol investigated the benefits of branched-chain amino acid enriched nutrients for patients with liver cirrhosis.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are essential amino acids, which mean we must get them from our food. BCAA’s are crucial to our wellbeing, as they not only create the antibodies which fight infection, but also make up our muscles and internal organs.

Sakai Y, Iwata Y, et al, researchers at the Hyogo College of Medicine, Japan, investigated the usefulness of BCAA supplements for liver patients undergoing endoscopic treatment for esophageal varices.

BCAA-enriched nutrients improve outcome for liver patients

The researchers gave patients BCAA-enriched nutrients, and evaluated their nutritional status over time. They examined weight gain and albumin on the first day, day seven, and day 50.

The BCAA-enriched nutrient mixture maintained the weight in the cirrhotic patients. Their non-protein respiratory quotients were also significantly improved.

The researchers concluded that including BCAA’s with nutritional energy supplements would be beneficial for cirrhotic patients undergoing endoscopic treatments.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633624