Most if not all bodybuilders are familiar with branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Branch chain amino acids supplements are popular with this lot and others in high-demand sports because they can help enhance lean mass and athletic performance. According to a recent study, the supplements may also help prevent recurrence of one form of liver cancer.
Now, while this may not be as encouraging as an outright prevention or cure, it is still significant. Every little bit of delay of the inevitable counts.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) patients may consider taking some supplements of branched-chain amino acids because it may help prevent recurrence for a short term (2.5 years) after surgery, according to a study in Surgery Today.
The study led by K. Ichiakawa of Kochi Medical School in Kochi, Japan and colleagues showed that hepatpcellular carcinoma patients who took branched chain amino acids for two weeks before and six months after hepatic resection were less likely to have recurrence within 30 months of surgery.
In the study, fifty-six patients were randomly assigned to receive either branched chain amino acids supplementation or a conventional diet for two weeks before and six months after removal of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Although there was no significant difference in the overall 5-year survival rate between the two liver cancer patient groups, the recurrence rate at 30 months after hepatocellular carcinoma surgery was much better in the supplementation group, compared to the control group. See original post
Amino acids are said to be the building blocks of protein. Branched chain amino acids can be categorized into three main groups:
- Essential amino acids: These cannot be synthesized by the body and have to be obtained from an external source (read diet). Examples of these include leucine, lysine and valine, among others.
- Semi-essential amino acid: These can also be called "conditionally essential". Your body can synthesize them but they get used up in "high demand" circumstances such as intense workouts or illness. Glutamine and arginine, among others, fall in this category.
- Non-essential amino acids: These can be produced in the body. They may be "non-essential" but they are no less important. In this group are tyrosine, taurine, and cysistine, among others.
When it comes to food sources of amino acids, it can get a little tricky. Some foods such as beef, eggs and soybeans contain all amino acids. So does whey protein, one of the most popular bodybuilding supplements to have been discovered. These are referred to as "complete proteins".
Other foods, the "incomplete proteins", contain some of the amino acids but not all. These include legumes, and rice. Two or more incomplete proteins can be combined to make complete proteins.