Health News for Senior Citizens

Health News for Seniors

Loss of muscle in senior citizens remains costly health problem with no clear solution

couch potato senior woman changes tv channelResearchers see possible hope in right combination of exercise, diet to fight sarcopenia

May 14, 2015 – Along the way from about age 40 to age 80, about 30 to 50 percent of your muscle mass just goes away. This terrible process is known as saropenia – it is common and clearly linked to frailty and poor health in senior citizens. New research from England suggests the combining exercise with proper diet may offer some hope but existing studies have produced inconsistent results.

The associated health care costs of sarcopenia are substantial.

Exercise training and diet supplementation have been shown to be effective in preventing sarcopenia in some studies, but little has been known about the combined effects of training with supplements, particularly in older people.

Scientists at the University of Southampton, England, have found that although there are studies that have found diet can enhance the effects of exercise to prevent muscle loss in later life, the total current evidence about what works is inconsistent.

In the study, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton carried out a review of combined diet and exercise training trials in men and women aged over 65 years old.

Almost 5,000 scientific articles were screened, with more than 100 reviewed in detail and 17 of these were included in the review. The review shows that findings differ across studies and suggests more research is needed.

Professor Sian Robinson, who led the review, says, “Poor diets and being physically inactive are common in older age. Understanding the benefits of maintaining sufficient levels of physical activity and diet quality to prevent sarcopenia is therefore a priority.

“Although some studies have found enhanced effects of exercise training when combined with diet supplementation, our review shows that current evidence is incomplete and inconsistent. Further research to determine the benefits of supplementation and exercise training for older people is therefore needed.”

Professor Cyrus Cooper, Professor of Rheumatology and Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, adds: “This study is part of an important programme of research at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit that aims to improve our understanding of the effects of environment and lifestyle on musculoskeletal health and the process of ageing.”

Professor Avan Aihie Sayer, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit who oversaw the work, comments: “Sarcopenia is now recognized as a major clinical problem for older people. Gaining insights into the effects of lifestyle on losses of muscle mass and strength will be essential for the development of future public health strategies to promote better health in later life.”

The study Prevention and optimal management of sarcopenia: A review of combined exercise and nutrition interventions to improve muscle outcomes in older people was funded by the Medical Research Council.

>> What is sarcopenia, International Osteoporosis Foundation

>> Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia, National Library of Medicine (U.S.)

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