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Gain, No Pain?

By Guy Pujol

November 2001

Pick up Numedx, HIV Plus, or any other AIDS magazine and you'll find full-page advertisements for Juven® with HMB™. Juven is formulated to help build lean tissue (muscle) for persons dealing with unintentional weight loss without adding body fat. Read the ad and you'll learn that Juven "provides the nutritional building blocks you need to fight muscle loss" and is "clinically proven to rejuvenate muscles." If that is not reason enough to call the toll-free number and request a free sample then read on. The ad will also claim that it works "without side effects." Juven seems to achieve the ultimate goal of any therapy: effective results with no side effects.

So it begs the question: Is Juven right for me? The answer: Maybe, maybe not. There are several factors one needs to consider when deciding whether or not to try Juven; and, there are several factors that will determine whether or not Juven actually works when used.


Should I Buy It?

The first consideration when deciding whether or not to try Juven is a practical one: price. Juven is expensive. Buyers' clubs such as AIDS Treatment Initiatives (ATI) sell Juven for around $72.00 per box while retail stores may be as expensive as $95.00 per box. One box contains 30 packets. If taken as recommended by the manufacturer -- two packets per day -- one box only lasts fifteen (15) days. So, a one-month supply will cost $144.00 or more. Observations by treatment advocates and buyers' clubs indicate that a person needs to use Juven for at least two months in order to see the desired results of sustained lean tissue gain. This brings the lowest cost to $288.00.

The Juven ad mentions Medicaid and ADAP eligibility. The fact is that only seven states (NY, NJ, IL, IN, NE, FL, and CA) actually cover Juven under Medicaid; and, in most of these states, demonstrating medical necessity and receiving prior approval is required. Only New York covers Juven under its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) formulary. Some people with Blue Cross/Blue Shield have been able to get it covered, but this is dependent on the type of insurance plan. So, in the vast majority of cases, the cost of Juven will be cash out of pocket.

It is possible to purchase the three ingredients separately to save money. The HMB is the most expensive of the three products. But by making one's own combination of ingredients you do not get the convenience of a powdered supplement which easily mixes with water and tastes good -- the orange flavor tastes like Tang and the grape flavor tastes like Kool-Aid.

The second consideration is the reason for taking it. Juven is most effective for rebuilding lean tissue resulting from unintentional muscle loss. If a person is actively losing muscle or is unable to gain muscle regardless of other interventions, Juven may help restore lost muscle. People, however, not in this situation who are simply wanting to gain additional muscle may see positive results; but, other interventions such as protein supplementation and exercise may prove more cost effective. In most cases, exercise and proper diet will achieve the same results.

The third consideration is the ingredients in the product. Juven is a powdered combination of HMB (Hydroxy-Methylbutyrate), L-Glutamine, and L-Arginine. These products are safe and can be taken with HIV medications. With all supplements, however, there may be contraindications between these ingredients and particular conditions. For example, L-Glutamine should be counted as part of protein intake for persons with liver disease; and, people with end stage liver disease or renal failure should not use L-Glutamine. Individuals with impaired kidney and/or liver function should note that Juven contains 7.2 grams of nitrogen per day or 40 grams of protein equivalents. It is always best to discuss any supplement, including Juven, with your physician before taking it.


Will It Work?

Juven is effective at building lean tissue but only if combined with weight resistant exercise and proper diet, particularly adequate protein intake. Juven's ad and brochure never mention exercise, so they read as if one can magically gain muscle simply by taking the product. The fact is that without resistance exercise -- weight bearing exercise such as weight lifting, push-ups, and squats -- one cannot build or rebuild muscle. An expensive gym membership isn't required, but a regular weight bearing exercise program -- forty-five minutes three times a week -- that can be done in the home is crucial to building muscle. The old saying, "No pain, no gain," bears some truth.

Sufficient protein intake is critical to the success of Juven. Muscle is made of protein. The liver processes protein and sends it to the muscles for synthesis. The HMB in Juven is produced from the amino acid leucine. The L-Glutamine and L-Arginine found in Juven are essential and semi-essential amino acids that are synthesized into protein. But without dietary protein intake, the human body cannot adequately combine these building blocks into additional protein for muscle reconstruction. Adequate protein intake is dependent on body weight; therefore, it is best to consult a dietitian to determine daily protein requirements.

Before you invest a lot of money in buying Juven, it may be prudent to meet with a dietitian and examine diet and exercise options that may prove less expensive and more effective. So the question remains: Is Juven right for me?




This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:
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