Drugs & Aging

, Volume 34, Issue 11, pp 833–840 | Cite as

The Potential of β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate as a New Strategy for the Management of Sarcopenia and Sarcopenic Obesity

  • Andrea P. RossiEmail author
  • Alessia D’Introno
  • Sofia Rubele
  • Cesare Caliari
  • Stefano Gattazzo
  • Elena Zoico
  • Gloria Mazzali
  • Francesco Fantin
  • Mauro Zamboni
Review Article


Sarcopenia is defined as an age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function and is recognized as a major clinical problem for older people. Essential amino acid supplementation, particularly β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of leucine that is produced in skeletal muscle, has been evaluated in several studies as a nutritional approach to enhancing muscle protein synthesis in healthy or frail elderly subjects. Studies performed in in vitro conditions show that HMB may be effective in the treatment of muscle wasting, increasing myogenesis, reducing muscle apoptosis, and having a positive effect on muscle protein turnover; however, studies of the effects of HMB conducted in old animals have reported conflicting results. Clinical trials performed in older adults confirm that HMB can attenuate the progression of sarcopenia in elderly subjects. HMB supplementation results in an increase in skeletal muscle mass and strength in the elderly and its effect is even greater when combined with physical exercise. The role of HMB in sarcopenic obesity management is still under debate and a general lack of intervention studies in this population must be recognized. In conclusion, HMB appears to be effective for enhancing muscle mass and strength in the elderly. Less certain is the role of HMB supplementation in reducing fat mass and, thus, in the treatment of sarcopenic obesity.



The article was revised by a native English speaker, Professor Mark J. Newman.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Andrea Rossi, Alessia D’Introno, Sofia Rubele, Cesare Caliari, Stefano Gattazzo, Elena Zoico, Gloria Mazzali, Francesco Fantin and Mauro Zamboni declare they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea P. Rossi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alessia D’Introno
    • 2
  • Sofia Rubele
    • 1
  • Cesare Caliari
    • 1
  • Stefano Gattazzo
    • 1
  • Elena Zoico
    • 1
  • Gloria Mazzali
    • 1
  • Francesco Fantin
    • 1
  • Mauro Zamboni
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Geriatrics, Department of MedicineUniversity of Verona, Ospedale MaggioreVeronaItaly
  2. 2.Division of Geriatrics, Department of MedicineUniversity of BariBariItaly

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