By Jen Morganti, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director
Sarcopenia is the medical term that describes the common age-related decline in muscle strength and mass. Sarcopenia is to blame for many health-related problems in seniors, such as loss of balance that can cause falls and/ or bone fractures. Sarcopenia also leads to frailty, which can decrease a person's ability to care for themselves and puts the elderly at a much higher risk for mortality.
As we grow older, it's important to take steps to fight the progression of sarcopenia and maintain independence, quality of life, and longevity. There are proactive steps that can be taken to slow muscle loss and improve strength and balance.
A recent study helped prove that a combination of specific nutritional supplements, paired with a simple exercise program can help slow the progression of sarcopenia. In this study, 49 relatively healthy men over 60- years-old participated in an 18 week program to determine if supplementation and exercise could improve their muscle mass. Twice a day for 6 weeks, they consumed a supplement containing whey protein, creatine, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 oils. After the 6 week span, they participated in an exercise program that involved strength/resistance training and high-intensity interval training for 12 more weeks— all while continually taking the supplements or a placebo. They were also instructed not to change their regular daily diet.
After the initial 6 week time period, which did not include exercise, the group taking the supplements gained 700 grams of lean body mass (muscle) and the placebo group showed no change in lean body mass. After the 18 week program, which did include exercise, the group taking the supplements lost fat mass and gained muscle strength; whereas, the group that did not take supplements gained fat slightly.
The takeaway message from this study is that exercise alone may not increase muscle mass, but supplementing with protein and various nutrients in addition to exercise can help to prevent sarcopenia from developing.
Kirsten E. Bell et. al., A whey protein-based multi-ingredient nutritional supplement stimulates gains in lean body mass and strength in healthy older men: A randomized controlled trial. PLOSONE, 2017; 12 (7): e0181387.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.