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Ibuprofen helps immune cells build up muscle tissue

Young strength athletes show less progression if they take anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen [Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Mar;282(3):E551-6.], but older strength athletes actually build up more muscle mass if they take ibuprofen. An animal study, published in 2003 in Inflammation Research, explains why. Ibuprofen stimulates the immune system to help build more muscle mass.

Inflammation & exercise
Ibuprofen helps immune cells build up muscle tissue
After a heavy training session inflammatory reactions take place in the muscles. Muscle cells die, and immune cells travel through the muscle tissue clearing up the dead cells. The immune cells also play a role in the rebuilding of muscle tissue.

Ibuprofen – in full 2-isobutylphenyl-propanoic-acid – inhibits the production of aggressive compounds by the immune cells. If you add this information to what you know about the role of immune cells in trained muscles, then you’ll automatically wonder what happens if you combine training with ibuprofen.

This is the question that physiologists at the University of California decided to answer by doing experiments on rats. The researchers first prevented the rats from using their hind legs for 10 days, and then let them use them again. Regaining the use of their legs like this is equivalent to eccentric weight training in humans.

Rats in the control group were allowed to use their legs and were given salts [AMBU: PBS] or ibuprofen [AMBU: IBU]. The researchers pumped the salts and the ibuprofen directly into the rats' stomachs, using a tube.

The rats in the experimental groups were also given salts [RELOAD: PBS] or ibuprofen. The researchers gave the animals 10 mg ibuprofen per kg bodyweight on 4 different occasions: 8 hours before they regained the use of their hind legs and 8, 16 and 24 afterwards [RELOAD: PRE-IBU]. There was also a group of rats that were not administered ibuprofen on the first occasion [RELOAD: POST-IBU].

A day after the rats had started to use their hind legs again the researchers noticed that the rats' soleus was inflamed [inflammatory cells]. They also saw that more neutrophils were accumulating in the rats' muscles. The most interesting difference was that in the RELOAD: PRE-IBU group, the ibuprofen led to a bigger increase in the ED2+ macrophages.

Ibuprofen helps immune cells build up muscle tissue

ED2+ macrophages are normally found in muscles: they belong there. In earlier publications the same researchers report that the immune cells become more active as muscles recover. [J Appl Physiol. 1994 Jul; 77(1): 290-7.]

A bigger increase in the number of ED2+ macrophages was accompanied by fewer dead muscle cells.

Ibuprofen helps immune cells build up muscle tissue

"The increase in ED2+ macrophage concentration and decrease in necrosis may be mechanistically related because ED2+ macrophages have been associated with muscle regeneration and repair", the researchers write.

If you know how to use anti-inflammatories in a smart way, you've probably uncovered a new anabolic strategy. Maybe fish oil can help here too. Fish oil makes it easier for immune cells to find their way through muscle tissue after a training session. And then there's Echinacea as well. Doesn't Echinacea stimulate macrophages? This research wasn't financed by a manufacturer of over-the-counter drugs either.

The researchers received money from a "Cybex research grant awarded by the American College of Sports Medicine" and the space organisation NASA.

Inflamm Res. 2003 Apr; 52 (4): 170-6.

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are anabolic for seventy year olds 24.08.2008