BU professor debunks wildly popular muscle-building supplement - KXXV Central Texas News Now


Baylor professor debunks wildly popular muscle-building supplement

by Mark Wiggins

WACO -- The nutritional supplement market is a multi-million dollar industry, fueled by amazing claims and little accountability.  Now a local professor is taking on one of its biggest money-makers.

The advertising is hard to beat.

With names like NO2 Black, N.O. XPLODE and jack3d, nitric oxide products have taken the workout supplement market by storm.  For anywhere from $10 to $100 per bottle, they contain the active ingredient arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), which claims to increase nitric oxide production in the body.  The intended result is dilation of the blood vessels -- a process called "vasodilation" -- resulting in more blood to flow to the muscles and gigantic "pumps" in the gym.

It's marketed as a Holy Grail for those looking to get mind-blowing biceps -- but there may be a slight problem.

"Well, we found out that it doesn't work," says Dr. Darryn Willoughby, research professor at Baylor University.  Willoughby is also a competitive bodybuilder with a laboratory split between scientific instruments and workout equipment, and says a hunch led him to put the popular supplement to the test.

Willoughby's study tested a group of people working out with the original nitric oxide supplement NO2 Platinum made by MRI against a group working out and taking a placebo.  The 24 participants were measured for increased arterial blood flow -- the vasodilation claimed by nitric oxide supplements.

"It was almost identically the same, there was no difference whatsoever," says Willoughby.

Many swear that nitric oxide products work, but a check of the back label reveals some telling information.  Many products contain extra ingredients like caffeine and B vitamins; which provide a quick boost, but not much else.

"They notice that they feel all tingly or they feel this surge of energy, and so the fact that they feel something makes them think that the product is actually working, which that's not necessarily the case," says Willoughby.

News Channel 25 attempted to contact Medical Research Institute, the company that manufactures NO2 Platinum, but calls and e-mails were not promptly returned.

Willoughby says he's not attacking an entire industry, but warns buyers to beware of outrageous claims.

"There are some supplements that validly controlled research has shown have positive effects," he says.  "I'm not trying to bash all supplements, because some of them have their place."

The good news is that getting a good "pump" is really fairly cheap.  According to Chris Goss, personal trainer at Waco's W.R.S. gym, there's no replacement for the basics of building a strong, healthy body.

"For most workout people, everybody wants to go get the new best thing, but really when it comes down to it, you've got to stay in the gym, you've got to exercise and you've got to eat right," says Goss.

The science behind nitric oxide isn't entirely bogus.  Willoughby says studies done on animals have shown evidence of vasodilation, but at levels much higher than those recommended by the manufacturers of nitric oxide products.  For now, no scientifically sound research has proven the effectiveness of those products currently on the market.

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