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Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):442-54. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Dietary treatment of rheumatoid cachexia with beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, glutamine and arginine: a randomised controlled trial.

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School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, University of Wales-Bangor, George Building, Holyhead Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2PX, UK.



Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is complicated by cytokine-driven alterations in protein and energy metabolism and consequent muscle wasting (cachexia). The aim of this randomised controlled trial was to investigate the efficacy of a mixture of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, glutamine and arginine (HMB/GLN/ARG) as nutritional treatment for rheumatoid cachexia.


Forty RA patients supplemented their diet with either HMB/GLN/ARG or a nitrogen (7.19 g/day) and calorie (180 kcal/day) balanced mixture of alanine, glutamic acid, glycine, and serine (placebo) for 12 weeks. Body composition and other outcomes were assessed at baseline and follow-up, and analysed by mixed ANOVA.


Dietary supplementation with HMB/GLN/ARG was not superior to placebo in the treatment of rheumatoid cachexia (groupxtime interactions P>0.05 for all outcomes). Both amino acid mixtures significantly increased (main effect of time) fat-free mass (727+/-1186 g, P<0.01), total body protein (719+/-1703 g, P=0.02), arms (112+/-183 g, P<0.01) and legs (283+/-534 g, P<0.01) lean mass, and some measures of physical function. No significant adverse event occurred during the study, but patients in the HMB/GLN/ARG group reported fewer gastrointestinal complaints compared to placebo.


Dietary supplementation with HMB/GLN/ARG is better tolerated but not more effective in reversing cachexia in RA patients compared to the mixture of other non-essential amino acids used as placebo. Further controlled studies are necessary to confirm the beneficial anabolic and functional effects of increased nitrogen intake in this population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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