If you’ve noticed that you don’t have as much vim and vigor as you did ten or twenty years ago … or that your muscles aren’t quite as buff as they used to be … you’re in good company. As we age, we all naturally experience muscle loss, and strength, energy, and vigor decline. This aging-related muscle deterioration is called Sarcopenia, and in its severe form it results in disabling frailty and weakness, along with a significant increased risk of illness and death. The problem is, this “frailty of aging syndrome” is becoming a problem of epidemic proportions as the population grows older and lives longer.
Staying active and strong
We all know the importance of staying active and exercising, and numerous studies have shown that active people are indeed healthier. But as we get older, it takes more and more effort to get the results we want … because our body and muscles just don’t respond to exercise the way they did when we were younger. Exercise can be frustrating and discouraging because the results are so slow in coming. But it’s important to keep it up!
Although no one cause has been found for Sarcopenia, one recent scientific conference focusing on research and treatments for the syndrome concluded that the only effective intervention was regular physical exercise that includes weight training. However, the researchers stressed the point that even people who are active, and maintain their fitness level, are not immune to developing Sarcopenia.1
The good news is an amazing European pharmaceutical that stimulates muscle health, energy, and vitality is now available in the US!
For years scientists have searched for a compound that could safely promote muscle growth and muscle health. Countless products have been sold to help people get more results from their exercise, both for body builders and people just interested in getting the most from their physical activity. Unfortunately, these products have been more hype than science.
Not surprisingly, most of these products have had little or no testing in humans to even show they are beneficial. This is in spite of the fact that scientists have been vigorously researching the causes and potential treatments of age-related muscle deterioration.
Luckily, all this research has actually begun to pay off. In fact, there is a special amino acid complex composed of Ornithine (an amino acid) and Ketoglutaric Acid (a natural energy-producing compound) that shows tremendous promise as a stimulator of muscle health, energy, and vitality. This compound is called Ornithine Ketoglutarate, or OKG.
OKG has a successful track record in Europe for helping severely traumatized patients like burn victims. Over several decades of research and clinical use, OKG has been used to limit the protein breakdown and muscle loss that results from trauma. Numerous studies have examined both the use of OKG in trauma victims and the elderly, and have attempted to understand how this amazing amino acid compound stimulates protein synthesis in tissues and muscles.
Additionally, research has shown that OKG is also useful for supporting cardiovascular health and immune function. OKG is quickly emerging from a pharmaceutical for severely ill burn victims to a powerful amino acid supplement for all of us interested in promoting our health, strength, and vigor. Despite the need for a safe, nutritional product to help people interested in getting the most from their exercise—and to help those of us determined to prevent the devastating consequences of age-related muscle deterioration—OKG has been almost unknown in the USA. That is, until now!
From burns to bodybuilders
Severe burns are some of the most serious and difficult injuries to treat. Along with the threat of infection, one of the biggest problems facing burn victims is the inevitable catabolic state that follows severe burns. A catabolic state causes a breakdown of tissue and muscle proteins, and this is the opposite of the anabolic state, which promotes protein synthesis in our body. Numerous treatments have been tried to reverse the catabolic state that plagues burn victims and contributes to tissue breakdown and infection.
One of the most effective compounds scientists and doctors have utilized is OKG. This safe compound composed of natural ingredients has been shown to significantly promote protein synthesis and healing in burn victims.2
Although OKG has been safely used for burn victims in Europe for more than 20 years, it has remained an orphan drug (a drug used to treat or prevent rare diseases) in the rest of the world. And even though it is a very effective and safe compound for stimulating protein synthesis in the body and muscles, OKG has received little clinical interest outside its use for burn victims.
Because OKG is known to stimulate muscle health and growth, it’s not surprising that it has been popular among bodybuilders. Numerous products containing OKG appeared on the market about a decade ago, but most of them have disappeared from store shelves because they contained an inferior calcium or magnesium OKG salt—not the pure OKG used in all the impressive research. Also, most OKG products did not contain the proper dosage that has been shown to be effective, but instead contained a small, ineffective amount. Only recently has real pharmaceutical-grade OKG become available in an effective dosage.
How does OKG work?
After scientists discovered that OKG had unique and remarkable anabolic effects and promoted muscle health, they did research into how it works. One of the amazing discoveries was that while OKG strongly promoted protein synthesis and prevented tissue and muscle breakdown, the two components that make up the OKG molecule—ornithine and ketoglutaric acid—had much less effect when taken individually. Instead, the specific combination of ornithine and ketoglutaric acid together was required.3 After OKG is consumed it is rapidly metabolized, and these metabolites seem to mediate much of OKG’s benefits. Among the metabolites are arginine and glutamine. Both of these amino acids are considered “non-essential,” meaning they can be made in the body. However, scientists have known for some time that during periods of stress and injury, or as a result of aging, these non-essential amino acids should be supplied in the diet.4 In fact, for optimal health we really should consider these amino acids to be essential dietary components.
Glutamine is essential for muscle health
Glutamine itself has been used for many of the same indications as OKG, and is considered essential for muscle health, although it isn’t considered an essential dietary component. Glutamine is an important link between the metabolism of carbohydrate and protein, a component of the important antioxidant glutathione, and improves the utilization of protein by the body.5 Unfortunately, glutamine supplements have not proven very effective at significantly raising glutamine levels in the body. Because of this, many researchers have tried using precursors of glutamine like arginine and arginine ketoglutaric acid. These compounds also seem to be of little benefit for raising glutamine. OKG, however, has been shown to be very effective at raising glutamine levels in the body, working even better than taking glutamine itself.6 OKG also increases the levels of the anabolic amino acids ornithine and arginine, as well as proline, an amino acid vital for the production of collagen and connective tissue. It is this specific combination of metabolites produced from OKG in the body that are the key to its far reaching effects.
Beyond its metabolites, OKG also helps support our most important protein building hormones, including growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, and insulin. It has been documented that trauma, stress, and aging cause a dramatic decrease in the level and function of these important hormones. Among OKG’s effects in the body is the ability to simultaneously increase all these important anabolic hormones.7 This, combined with OKG’s metabolism in the body to amino acids required for these hormones to promote health, makes OKG a dietary supplement with profound beneficial effects.
More than muscle
While the metabolites formed from OKG play an important role in muscle health, they have many other functions in our body. So it wasn’t surprising that OKG would be found to have a myriad of beneficial effects beyond its ability to stimulate protein synthesis. One of the important findings was that OKG improved immune function. While it is thought that glutamine production from OKG is involved in this immune stimulation, it is also now known that much of this immune enhancement is from the promotion of nitric oxide synthesis. Again, as in the case of glutamine, where OKG worked better than any of its components or metabolites, OKG stimulates immune function and nitric oxide production more effectively than other precursors.8 Amazingly, OKG worked even better than the amino acid arginine, which many people have used to enhance immune function and nitric oxide production. OKG is well documented to enhance immune function in severely injured people, and likely is a very effective immune stimulator for the elderly or anyone under stress.
While nitric oxide is important for immune function, it is best known as a promoter of circulation and cardiovascular health. OKG has not received much attention in this role. This is in spite of the fact that it works better than arginine, and arginine is routinely recommended to help promote nitric oxide production. Many years ago OKG was found to be effective in the treatment of oxygen deprivation to the brain and stroke, showing it could preserve and improve brain function.9 More research is needed to demonstrate OKG’s potential cardiovascular benefits, which most likely are numerous.
OKG offers support to the elderly recovering from acute illnesses
The elderly often have difficulty recuperating, healing, and regaining their strength after an illness. This all adds up to a lengthy recovery and high health care costs … not to mention a diminishing of the patient’s quality of life. In one groundbreaking study, doctors administered a dose of OKG daily with lunch for two months to a group of patients recovering from an acute illness.10 The results were nothing less than amazing. The group given OKG showed significant improvements in appetite, body weight, and independence. Additionally, they showed a dramatic improvement in their quality of life, along with a large decrease in their cost of medical care. This study was done in France, and the authors concluded that the almost 40% reduction in medical costs in the OKG group made the use of OKG supplements for people convalescing from acute illness very cost effective. Sadly, OKG is not used to help get recovering patients back on their feet in the USA.
Use it or lose it
OKG is a compound with amazing properties. Decades of research have shown that when it comes to amino acid or protein supplements, OKG is the heavyweight champion. With benefits for both young and old, and the ability to help us support and maintain our muscles, brain, cardiovascular system, and immune system, no other amino acid complex comes close. But to benefit from OKG you must obtain the real, pharmaceutical grade product—and use it correctly.
Real OKG is used as a powder that is added to water or juice. In order to maximize your benefits a minimum of 5 grams should be taken once daily with a meal. Elderly individuals and people convalescing from illness will get better results taking 10 grams with a meal once daily. No side effects have been found in studies using up to 30 grams daily. If you’re interested in using OKG to maximize the results of your exercise program, take 5-10 grams of OKG with a meal immediately after exercise.
While OKG is just the support your muscles need for optimal health, it’s still important to exercise. Most scientists and doctors agree thatregular exercise (and preferably weight training) can slow down age-related muscle loss. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, even the physically fit can succumb to the devastating consequences of Sarcopenia. However, it seems clear that OKG, especially when combined with regular exercise, is exactly the ammunition your body needs to fight off one of the most feared consequences of aging; becoming weak and frail.
- Marcell TJ, Sarcopenia: causes, consequences, and preventions, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 Oct;58(10):M911-6.
- Coudray-Lucas C, Le Bever H, Cynober L, De Bandt JP, Carsin H, Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate improves wound healing in severe burn patients: a prospective randomized double-blind trial versus isonitrogenous controls, Crit Care Med. 2000 Jun;28(6):1772-6.
Donati L, Ziegler F, Pongelli G, Signorini MS, Nutritional and clinical efficacy of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate in severe burn patients, Clin Nutr. 1999 Oct;18(5):307-11.
- Jeevanandam M, Holaday NJ, Petersen SR, Ornithine-alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) supplementation is more effective than its component salts in traumatized rats, J Nutr. 1996 Sep;126(9):2141-50. Abstract
- De Bandt JP, Cynober LA, Amino acids with anabolic properties, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 1998 May;1(3):263-72.
- Tapiero H, Mathe G, Couvreur P, Tew KD, Glutamine and glutamate, Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Nov;56(9):446-57.
- Neu J, DeMarco V, Li N, Glutamine: clinical applications and mechanisms of action, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Jan;5(1):69-75.
Moinard C, Caldefie F, Walrand S, Felgines C, Vasson MP, Cynober L, Involvement of glutamine, arginine, and polyamines in the action of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate on macrophage functions in stressed rats, J Leukoc Biol. 2000 Jun;67(6):834-40.
- Jeevanandam M, Petersen SR, Substrate fuel kinetics in enternally fed trauma patients supplemented with ornithine alpha ketoglutarate, Clin Nutr. 1999 Aug;18(4):209-17.
- Moinard C, Caldefie F, Walrand S, Tridon A, Chassagne J, Vasson MP, Cynober L, Effects of ornithine 2-oxoglutarate on neutrophils in stressed rats: evidence for the involvement of nitric oxide and polyamines, Clin Sci (Lond). 2002 Mar;102(3):287-95.
- Hares P, James IM, Pearson RM, Effect of ornithine alpha ketoglutarate (OAKG) on the response of brain metabolism to hypoxia in the dog, Stroke. 1978 May-Jun;9(3):222-4.
Woollard ML, Pearson RM, Dorf G, Griffith D, James IM, Controlled trial of ornithine alpha ketoglutarate (OAKG) in patients with stroke, Stroke. 1978 May-Jun;9(3):218-22.
- Brocker P, Vellas B, Albarede JL, Poynard T, A two-centre, randomized, double-blind trial of ornithine oxoglutarate in 194 elderly, ambulatory, convalescent subjects, Age Ageing. 1994 Jul;23(4): 303-6.