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J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(1):117-130. doi: 10.1007/s12603-017-0934-z.

Effects of Protein, Essential Amino Acids, B-Hydroxy B-Methylbutyrate, Creatine, Dehydroepiandrosterone and Fatty Acid Supplementation on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength and Physical Performance in Older People Aged 60 Years and Over. A Systematic Review on the Literature.

Author information

Olivier Bruyère, PhD, Research Unit in Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège, Belgium, Quartier hôpital, avenue hippocrate, 13, 4000 Liège, Tel.: +32 4 366 25 81, E-mail:



The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review to investigate the effects protein, essential amino acids (EAA), β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB), creatine, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and fatty acid supplementation on muscle mass, muscle strength and physical performance of elderly subjects.


Using the electronic databases MEDLINE and EMBASE we identified RCTs published until February 2016 which assessed the effects of these nutrient supplementation on muscle strength, muscle mass or physical performance. Study selection and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers.


Search strategy allowed us to identify 23 RCTs. Among them, four used proteins as nutritional supplement, seven EAAs, six creatine, four DHEA and finally, two HMB. From our systematic review, it seems that the effects of these supplementations on muscle health are rather limited. Only consistent effects of EAA supplementation on physical performance (3 out of the 4 RCTs using EAA supplementation found significant effect of this supplementation on physical performance) and HMB supplementation on muscle mass (all the 2 identified RCTs using HMB supplementation found significant effect of this supplementation on muscle mass) have been found across studies. No consistent effects were found for the other types of dietary supplementation. Because of the important limitations in study design, inconsistency and lack of directness, the overall quality of the evidence was judged to be low or very low using the GRADE system.


This systematic review showed a limited effect of nutritional supplementation on muscle mass, muscle power and physical function. Inconsistent positive effects were observed for some specific supplementations but the results only concerned one aspect of the muscle. Well designed and appropriately powered RCTs are needed to provide evidence for appropriate clinical recommendations.


Activities in daily living ; community-dwelling older adults; instrumental activities of daily living; multimorbidity


Conflict of interest statement

Authors have no conflict of interest.

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