Is BCAA safe?


Quick Answer

According to WebMD, branched-chain amino acids appear to be safe for most people when used for up to six months. However, they can cause fatal side effects in people with amyeotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic alcoholism or branched-chain ketoaciduria. Infants with idiopathic hypoglycemia should avoid BCAAs as well.

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Full Answer

Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains from many foods, including meat, legumes and dairy foods, explains WebMD. They include leucine, isoleucine and valine and are used by many people as a dietary supplement to build muscle and counteract fatigue. Additionally, they are sometimes given by health care providers to treat medical conditions, including ALS. Clinical studies have demonstrated that they are likely ineffective in treating ALS and may actually hasten patients' demise. Other medical uses include decreasing the symptoms of mania, alleviating tardive dyskinesia and improving muscle control and mental function in people with advanced liver disease. Some doctors use BCAAs to counteract muscle wasting and improve the appetite of elderly patients and those with kidney failure.

According to Bodybuilding.com, the fitness community also has been interested in BCAAs for some time, believing them to improve protein synthesis and aid muscle growth. While these beliefs are widely held, there is little scientific evidence to support them as of 2014. However, according to at least one study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Fitness in 2008, BCAAs may be useful as supplements for muscle recovery and immune regulation during sporting events.

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