UAB study looks to boost muscle mass in older adults

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Researchers at UAB are taking a hard look at an over-the-counter supplement that might help seniors avoid age-related muscle loss.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences, in a statement to FOX6 News, said it is looking at Juven, a nutritional supplement manufactured by Abbott Laboratories and used for wound-healing, to see if it can also help build muscle in older adults.

"As we age, we lose muscle mass and muscle function, losing both quantity and quality of muscle," said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and co-lead investigator of a study looking at the potential role of Juven.

Juven, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, is a blend of two amino acids - arginine and glutamine, along with a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The three in Juven are particularly associated with rebuilding tissue following surgery or treatment of wounds or pressure ulcers.

Gower and co-investigator Amy Ellis, a doctoral student in UAB's Department of Nutrition Sciences, are looking at the potential for Juven to boost muscle mass and function in seniors between the ages of 65 and 89. They are conducting trials to see if the drink the fruit-flavored supplement changes muscle mass compared to a placebo beverage taken twice a day for six months. Gower said MRI imaging will be used to see if there is a change in muscle mass.  Tests of physical strength and function will help determine if the drink helped improve the overall ability of muscles to function.

"Although we get these amino acids from protein foods like meats and dairy, seniors are unable to absorb or utilize amino acids from protein foods as well as younger people," said Ellis. "This study will help us see if supplementation of certain amino acids can help preserve or build muscle in seniors."

People interested in participating in the trial should e-mail or call 205-975-9629.

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