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Bodybuilding supplement helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease

There’s an exciting new development in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research. Surprisingly, it centers around a common bodybuilding supplement known as HMB. The key to preserving memory and staving off this devastating disease may, in fact, reside in the diet of those pumping iron at the gym.

Researchers from RUSH Medical College have recently revealed that the muscle-enhancing supplement known as beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) could hold potential in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

The supplement, frequently used by bodybuilders to boost muscle growth and enhance performance, might also aid in memory protection, plaque reduction, and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This may be one of the safest and the easiest approaches to halt disease progression and protect memory in Alzheimer’s disease patients,” stated Kalipada Pahan, PhD, the Floyd A. Davis, MD, Professor of Neurology and professor of neurological sciences, biochemistry, and pharmacology at RUSH Medical College.

What is HMB?

The potential implications are indeed intriguing. It’s worth noting that HMB is not a prescription drug or a steroid.

Instead, it’s an over-the-counter supplement easily accessible in fitness and sports stores. It’s popular among bodybuilders seeking to augment exercise-induced muscle size and strength gains. People widely consider HMB safe for long-term use and acknowledge it has no known side effects.

Evidence supporting HMB’s beneficial properties in Alzheimer’s disease comes from studies conducted on mice. RUSH neurological researchers discovered that HMB effectively reduces Alzheimer’s associated plaques and promotes neuronal growth factors, thereby protecting learning and memory capabilities.

“Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs to protect the brain and stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Pahan explained.

In the human brain, a family of proteins known as neurotrophic factors play a vital role. These proteins help in the survival and functioning of neurons. These are the cells responsible for transmitting messages from the body to the brain and vice versa. Alzheimer’s patients’ brains significantly decrease these proteins.

Pahan elaborated on the potential of HMB, saying, “Our study found that after oral consumption, HMB enters into the brain to increase these beneficial proteins, restore neuronal connections and improve memory and learning in mice with Alzheimer’s-like pathology, such as plaques and tangles.”

Other significant findings from this research

The research also indicated that HMB stimulates a nuclear hormone receptor known as PPARα within the brain. This receptor plays a pivotal role in regulating the transport of fatty acids. This is a function crucial for HMB’s potential success as a neuroprotective supplement.

“If mouse results with HMB are replicated in Alzheimer’s disease patients, it would open up a promising avenue of treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” Pahan added.

Alzheimer’s disease typically manifests after age 60 and is the leading cause of dementia among older adults. Currently, it affects approximately 6 million Americans and more than 10% of individuals aged 65 and older. Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women.

This pivotal study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, recently had its results published in Cell Reports. As the global scientific community strives to unravel the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease, these findings shine a hopeful light on potential new avenues for treatment and prevention.

More about Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease, first identified by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills.

Ultimately, people with the disease lose the ability to carry out simple tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.


The early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include minor memory problems, confusion, getting lost in familiar places, problems with speech and language, and personality changes. Often, people mistake these symptoms for age-related changes.

As the disease progresses, symptoms can include severe memory impairment and trouble with language, decreased judgment, disorientation, and behavior changes. Ultimately, it can lead to individuals losing their ability to feed themselves and communicate.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease progresses in stages, from preclinical Alzheimer’s disease to mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage), and severe (late-stage) Alzheimer’s. Each stage exhibits a progression of increasingly severe symptoms.

Causes and risk factors

Scientists still do not completely understand the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Experts believe that a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors results in Alzheimer’s disease.

Age is the most well-known risk factor, with most people developing symptoms after age 65. However, about 5% of people with Alzheimer’s disease have early-onset Alzheimer’s, which can occur between one’s 40s and mid-60s.

Other risk factors include family history and genetics, mild cognitive impairment, Down syndrome, unhealthy lifestyle (such as physical inactivity, obesity, unhealthy diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption), previous head trauma, and certain chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Brain changes

Alzheimer’s disease leads to several changes in the brain. The two major abnormalities are plaques and tangles.

Plaques are clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid, and they damage and destroy brain cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau that build up inside cells.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

Currently, there’s no single test that confirms Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis is usually based on the person’s medical history, physical examination, cognitive tests, and a neurological assessment.

Brain imaging techniques like MRI and PET scans can help to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

Treating Alzheimer’s

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments focus on managing symptoms and can include medications, physical activity, nutrition, social engagement, and cognitive training.

Some drugs can temporarily improve symptoms or slow the rate of decline. These treatments can sometimes help people with Alzheimer’s disease maximize function and maintain independence for a time.

Research is ongoing to find new treatments for Alzheimer’s. For example, there are new drugs being developed and tested that aim to slow down the progression of the disease, not just manage the symptoms. Other research is exploring the effect of cardiovascular factors, the immune system, and inflammation on the disease.

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease

While no certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease exists, some evidence suggests that lifestyle changes can help maintain overall brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

These changes include maintaining a healthy heart, staying physically active, following a healthy diet, staying socially engaged, and participating in lifelong learning.

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