Branched-chain amino acids are used for reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy) and for a movement disorder often caused by antipsychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia). They are also commonly used to improve athletic performance, prevent fatigue, reduce muscle breakdown, and other conditions, but there isn't enough reliable information to support these other uses.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy). Taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth seems to improve liver function in people with poor brain function caused by liver disease. Branched-chain amino acids may also improve mental function or reverse comas in people with this condition, but conflicting results exist. Branched-chain amino acids don't appear to reduce the chance of death in people with this condition.
- A movement disorder often caused by antipsychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia). Taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth seems to reduce symptoms of the muscle disorder called tardive dyskinesia.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Liver cancer. Taking up to 50 grams of branched-chain amino acids twice daily for up to one year does not seem to improve survival or reduce recurrence in people with liver cancer who have had liver surgery. However, some early evidence shows that taking branched-chain amino acids improves survival and prevents cancer recurrence in people with liver cancer who have not had surgery.
Likely InEffective for
- Lou Gehrig disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS). Early studies showed promising results, but more recent studies show no benefit of branched chain amino acids in people with ALS. In fact, taking branched-chain amino acids might make lung function worse and increase the chance of death in people with this condition.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Alzheimer disease. Early research has found a link between higher branched-chain amino acids in the blood and lower chance of Alzheimer disease.
- An eating disorder (anorexia nervosa). Certain illnesses cause some people to have poor appetite. Early research shows that taking branched-chain amino acids might improve appetite and overall nutrition in people with kidney failure, cancer, or liver disease.
- Athletic performance. Taking branched-chain amino acids may reduce fatigue from exercising and improve exercise recovery. In many cases, this improvement is found when branched-chain amino acids are taken with arginine or green tea powder. But not all studies agree. Also, taking branched-chain amino acids does not appear to improve strength, running times, or cycling speed.
- Bipolar disorder. Consuming a drink containing branched-chain amino acids might reduce symptoms of mania in the short-term. But it's unclear if this drink is beneficial when used long-term.
- Liver scarring (cirrhosis). Taking branched-chain amino acids seems to improve liver function and reduce liver complications in some people with liver cirrhosis. But taking branched-chain amino acids as part of an evening snack does not seem to help with quality of life or glucose control in people with liver cirrhosis.
- Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia). Early research has found a link between higher branched-chain amino acids in the blood and lower chance of dementia.
- Diabetes. It's unknown if people who get more branched-chain amino acids in their diet have a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes. Some early research has found a decreased risk, while other research found an increased risk. It's possible that the source of branched-chain amino acids in the diet might influence its effect.
- Muscle damage caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking branched-chain amino acids might reduce the breakdown of muscles during exercise. But not all research agrees.
- Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking branched chain amino acids before exercising might reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
- Heart failure. Early research suggests that taking BCAAs might be beneficial to people with heart failures and low albumin in the blood.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the liver (hepatitis). Taking branched-chain amino acids daily along with a controlled diet does not reduce the chance of death in people with liver inflammation caused by drinking alcohol.
- Obesity. Some research has found that higher branched-chain amino acids in the diet decrease the risk of obesity. But other research shows no benefit.
- An inherited disorder that increases levels of phenylalanine in the blood (phenylketonuria or PKU). Taking branched-chain amino acids for up to 6 months seems to improve attention in children with phenylketonuria.
- An inherited disease that leads to uncoordinated walk and poor hand-eye coordination (spinocerebellar ataxia or SCA). There are conflicting results about the effects of branched-chain amino acids in people with a disease of the spine called SCD. Some early research suggests that taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth might improve some symptoms of SCD. However, other research suggests that branched-chain amino acids do not improve muscle control in people with SCD.
- Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).
- Physical performance in elderly adults.
- Recovery after surgery.
- Decline in memory and thinking skills that occurs normally with age.
- Preventing muscle wasting in people confined to bed.
- Other conditions.
When given by IV: Branched-chain amino acids are LIKELY SAFE when injected intravenously (by IV) by a healthcare professional.
Special Precautions and Warnings
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 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).
Diabetes: Branched-chain amino acids might affect blood sugar levels. Watch for signs of low or high blood sugar and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and take branched-chain amino acids.
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.
Levodopa interacts with BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
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.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
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.
Be cautious with this combination
Diazoxide (Hyperstat, Proglycem) interacts with BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
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) interacts with BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
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.
Thyroid hormone interacts with BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
Branched-chain amino acids help the body make proteins. Some thyroid hormone medications can decrease how fast the body breaks down branched-chain amino acids. However, more information is needed to know the significance of this interaction.
Be watchful with this combination
- For reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy): 240 mg/kg/day up to 25 grams of branched-chain amino acids daily for three months. In some cases the dose is taken in three divided doses daily.
- For a movement disorder often caused by antipsychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia): a branched-chain amino acid drink containing valine, isoleucine, and leucine at a dose of 222 mg/kg taken three times daily for 3 weeks.
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