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Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are naturally occurring molecules (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that the body uses to build proteins. The term "branched chain" refers to the molecular structure of these particular amino acids. Muscles have a particularly high content of BCAAs.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, BCAA supplements may improve appetite in cancer patients and slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a terrible condition that leads to degeneration of nerves, atrophy of the muscles, and eventual death).

BCAAs have also been proposed as a supplement to boost athletic performance.

Preliminary evidence suggests that BCAAs may improve appetite in people undergoing treatment for cancer . 1 There is also some evidence that BCAA supplements may reduce symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease); however, not all studies have had positive results. 2 3 4 Preliminary evidence from a series of small studies suggests that BCAAs might decrease symptoms of tardive dyskinesia , a movement disorder caused by long-term usage of antipsychotic drugs. 5 BCAAs have also shown a bit of promise for enhancing recovery from traumatic brain injury. 6 Because of how they are metabolized in the body, BCAAs might be helpful for individuals with severe liver disease (such as cirrhosis ). 7 BCAAs have also been tried for aiding muscle...

Safety Issues

BCAAs are believed to be safe; when taken in excess, they are simply converted into other amino acids. However, like other amino acids, BCAAs may interfere with medications for Parkinson's disease . 8

Interactions You Should Know About

  • If you are taking medication for Parkinson's disease (such as levodopa ), BCAAs may reduce its effectiveness.