HMB, i.e. beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, is a substance naturally occurring in the bodies of humans and animals, a derivative of leucine – an essential branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) for humans and animals.
HMB plays an important role in the synthesis of proteins in the body, it is also credited with anabolic and anti-catabolic effects, influence on the skeletal system and immunity.
Studies conducted on humans have shown that HMB reduces the proteolysis (reduction) of muscle proteins, which is the result of physical exercise (6, 19, 20). These results were later confirmed in studies conducted on rats and broiler chickens (7). Thanks to the supplementation of this compound, the activity of catabolic enzymes is reduced, mainly ubiquitin, which destroys proteins (1). HMB reduces post-exercise skeletal muscle damage, while accelerating the regeneration of the body (4, 5, 6, 19). HMB is also used in the prevention of sarcopenia, i.e. the degradation of muscle tissue that occurs with age. (20, 21, 22)
Horse studies have also confirmed that HMB increases muscle strength and improves exercise performance (3,4). On the example of sled dogs, running a distance of 1,100 km, it was shown that the animals receiving the supplement with HMB were faster, stronger and more durable than the control group not receiving the preparation (11). Giving HMB to dogs running a distance of 500 m also brought positive effects – the animals were faster and less tired after the end of the run (11). In studies conducted on humans and animals, the positive effect of HMB on the growth of lean muscle mass has been repeatedly confirmed (1,5,6,11,12).
Subsequent studies using HMB have shown the effect of this substance on the increase of immunity of the animal organism (3,8,9,10,11,14). The results of studies conducted on broiler chickens and piglets confirmed the increase in animal immunity and lower mortality compared to control groups (8,9,10). Similar effects were brought by HMB supplementation with rainbow trout – an increase in immunity and lower mortality in juveniles were found (13,14).
It is also worth mentioning the results of studies describing the effect of HMB supplementation on the skeletal system of animals. A series of experiments conducted by a Polish team aimed to determine the effect of HMB supplemented with food on the metabolism of bone tissue in conditions of prenatal and postnatal or posthaul skeletal formation (16,17,18). The administration of HMB to pregnant sows resulted in, among other things, an increase in bone mass, strength and elasticity in piglets. Piglets that were under the influence of HMB (administered to the mother) in the prenatal period were also characterized by significantly greater weight gains (16).
The effect of HMB on bone tissue and skeletal properties in young animals in the intensive growth phase was also confirmed experimentally. Studies conducted on growing turkeys confirmed the results noted in previous experiments – increased bone mass, elasticity and strength. It has also been shown to increase the concentration of amino acids in the blood, e.g. leucine, isoleucine, proline, valine, alanine and glutamic acid. The results indicate an increased synthesis of amino acids, which play an important role in the proper development of the skeleton, which confirms the positive effect of HMB on the developing bone tissue (17). Studies conducted in humans and animals have also indicated that HMB stimulates collagen synthesis in the body, including in connective tissues (18).
Today, HMB is unfortunately not widely used in dog nutrition. Thanks to the research, it can be seen how many kinds of usage HMB can have in the nutrition of these animals. In the case of sports and working animals, the conclusions are obvious – appropriate supplementation will increase the dog’s lean muscle mass, strengthen its endurance and accelerate the regeneration of the body after exercise. All this should directly translate into significantly better results during training and later sports competitions.
Based on the presented research, however, a number of other uses for HMB as a dietary supplement for dogs can be noticed. The anabolic and anti-catabolic effect of this substance can be very helpful in the case of dogs with muscle diseases and damage. Dogs suffering from joint degeneration are very often reluctant to move and as a result have a weak “muscle corset”. This is especially true for weakness in the leg muscles. The lack of muscles that cushion bones and joints affects the deterioration of the animal’s health and increases the risk of rapid degeneration. The use of HMB in such animals will strengthen their muscles, which will significantly facilitate the movement of these dogs, and the muscle tissue itself will better protect the locomotor system against injuries.
Also in the case of convalescence of dogs devastated by disease or neglect, the administration of HMB can significantly accelerate the return of the animal to health and optimal condition.
The results of the conducted research indicate, among others, the possibility of using HMB supplementation during the growth and development of the animal in order to increase mineral density and bone strength and increase muscle mass. As a result, these elderly animals may be less exposed to the risk of developing metabolic bone diseases, e.g. osteoporosis(17).
Can HMB be dangerous? The conducted research proves that it is a completely safe preparation that does not cause any side effects, even in cases of taking doses significantly exceeding the recommended ones. Excess HMB is excreted in the urine each time, without burdening the digestive system. It can be safely administered orally in animals, regardless of age and physiological condition (2,18).
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