In the first part of a systematic literature-based review of dietary supplements commonly used by active-duty military service members, the USP has found no evidence that beta-alanine enhances athletic performance or improves recovery from exhaustion in active adults.
According to the USP review, the strength of the evidence in the literature did not support the use of this particular supplement by military personnel. In addition, USP scientists noted weaknesses in the quality of available literature, consistency and precision of various human and animal studies involving beta-alanine, stressing that the majority of the studies were not designed to address safety.
The review was conducted as part of a unique partnership between USP, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and the US Department of Defence, in order to assist the university in appropriately advising military personnel about the benefits and safety of dietary supplements commonly used by military personnel. The beta-alanine review is the first of three reviews led by USP and USUHS.
Widespread use of dietary supplements by military personnel was documented by the Institute of Medicine in 2008. To maintain fitness and endurance, about 60 per cent of military personnel use several dietary supplements for performance enhancement, body building and weight loss.
The analysis noted that short-term Paresthesia was the most commonly reported adverse reaction in individuals using beta-alanine supplements in the literature reviewed. Paresthesia is a burning or prickling sensation, often described as a feeling of “pins and needles.” While temporary Paresthesia may not pose a concern for most individuals, the review noted its effects must be determined with respect to the roles, occupations and behaviours unique to active-duty military.
“With a large population of active-duty military consuming dietary supplements, it is critical that we are able to accurately judge the potential for benefit or harm. We must utilize the best scientific knowledge available to help guide recommendations related to their health and nutrition to ensure their safety and performance. USP review is a wonderful step, and future research will look at other dietary ingredients relevant to athletes and military personnels,” said Patricia Deuster, director, USUHS Centre Alliance for Dietary Supplement Research.
The review also identified limitations and recommendations for future studies. These include research that explores the implications of the use of supplements specifically in military personnel; effects of environmental extremes and effects of combination with other commonly used supplements (e.g., caffeine); and long-term effects of beta-alanine interventions, which are unknown at this time.