Jeffrey Stout of the University of Oklahoma and a team of colleagues said beta-alanine, a dietary supplement widely used by athletes and body builders, improves muscle endurance in the elderly.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that, together with histidine, forms the dipeptide carnosine. Carnosine is found in muscle tissue and makes an important contribution to the maintenance of intracellular pH, which is vital for normal muscle function during intense exercise, Stout said. An increased intake of beta-alanine significantly raises muscle carnosine levels.
In the double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 26 elderly men and women were given a 90-day course of beta-alanine supplementation or placebo pills. Their fitness levels were tested before and after the course.
The study, published in BioMed Central's Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that in the treatment group, 67 percent of the subjects showed an improvement in their fitness levels, compared to 21.5 percent of the people receiving the placebo.