Researchers Take a Closer Look at Supplement Sensation
"We were able to establish that HMB is a safe compound to take," Nissen says. "Although it wasn't an objective [analysis] of the studies, we're also able to show some additional health benefits."
Specifically, they found a significant reduction in average cholesterol and blood pressure. When compared with a placebo, those taking HMB had an almost 6% decrease in total cholesterol, and their LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, was reduced by over 7%. In addition, average blood pressures in those taking the supplement decreased by over four points.
"The data pretty clearly show that there is a drop in cholesterol and a reduction in blood pressure," Nissen says. "It is hard to tell what the clinical significance of these changes are in a person's risk for heart disease. However, if you put the numbers we found into the risk factor equations, the risk of heart disease is decreased around 20%. These figures are just about what you would see by taking medications for hypertension or lowering cholesterol."
The key, according to Nissen, is that HMB effects both blood pressure and cholesterol. He notes that there are not many interventions that can impact both those risk factors.
"I usually tell people that if you are exercising and trying to get maximum effects, HMB will magnify burning of fat and building lean muscle," Nissen says. "It gives you a bigger bang for the buck. If you are out exercising to improve your health, HMB is a good addition."
However, taking the supplement to reduce your cholesterol is "premature," according to Philippe Szapary, MD, a professor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He viewed the results as being interesting.
"If someone thinks they are taking HMB to reduce cholesterol, they may be deceiving themselves," he said. "I don't think they will be doing themselves any harm, but we are not yet sure if there really is any benefit. Personally, if I had high cholesterol, I would not be taking HMB yet."