Omega-3 fats, whey, and exercise are just three of the effective ways to fight sarcopenia off before it strikes.
A form of muscle loss, sarcopenia is a common condition affecting up to 12 percent of older adults. The progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength is linked to an increased risk of physical disability, poor quality of life, and death.
Fortunately, you can take meaningful actions to prevent and reverse sarcopenia. Some of its causes are a natural result of aging, but others are preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle strategies. Quality food with adequate nutrition, for instance, may help preserve skeletal muscle regeneration as you age.
Here are five strategies to help fight this condition naturally.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to stimulate protein anabolism in animals and may benefit sarcopenia. To test this hypothesis, researchers randomly assigned 16 healthy older adults to receive omega-3 fats or corn oil for eight weeks. Results showed that omega-3s stimulated muscle protein synthesis and may be useful for preventing and treating sarcopenia.
Omega-3 fats are deemed a useful therapeutic agent for the disease due to their anti-inflammatory properties targeting “inflammaging,” the age-related chronic low-grade inflammation assumed to contribute to the development of sarcopenia.
A diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods has, in fact, been correlated with a higher risk of sarcopenia, suggesting an anti-inflammatory diet may be one key to prevent it.
In addition, omega-3s may also have an anabolic effect on muscle by activating mTOR signaling, which affects dozens of processes, including the cellular growth, proliferation, motility, and survival, as well as protein synthesis. Omega-3s may also reduce insulin resistance, which has additional benefits in the face of the diabetes epidemic. Omega-3s may also complement the effect of exercise or protein supplementation, with researchers urging a further review of the exact dosage, frequency, or use of these fats for this benefit.
2. Whey Protein
Protein supplementation is sometimes necessary to maintain skeletal muscle mass, and whey protein is among the best.
In two animal experiments, researchers found that whey protein attenuated induced muscle atrophy by enhancing the net protein content that regulates the synthesis and degradation of muscle protein. They dubbed the food a “necessary and probable candidate” for developing sarcopenia-fighting functional foods.
Highlighting the combined benefit of therapy and nutritional intervention, separate research found that, combined with omega-3s, polyphenols, and electrical muscle stimulation, whey protein increased muscle strength in elderly adults suffering from limited mobility. Paired with Panax ginseng berry extract, soluble whey protein hydrolysate also improved sarcopenia-related muscular deterioration.
If anything is going to help keep our muscles from wasting away, it’s exercise.
Exercise leads to sustained benefits to sarcopenia in heart failure cases, helping to reduce skeletal muscle wasting in this population. Among sarcopenic men of advanced old age, tai chi and whole body vibration were also found to be effective in improving muscle strength as well as physical performance.
A 2019 review of 331 articles also revealed that exercise was beneficial for skeletal muscle regeneration, muscle metabolism, and motor function in mice with sarcopenia. “The methods of exercise interventions mainly involved the use of treadmills, voluntary wheel-running, forced wheel-running, swimming, and resistance training,” notes the study, published in Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2019.
Diets marked by high consumption of fish, soybean products, potatoes, most vegetables, mushrooms, seaweeds and fruits, along with low rice intake, was linked with lower rates of sarcopenia in community-dwelling older Japanese.
Miso is a fermented paste that is traditionally added to many Japanese dishes. In a cross-sectional study, habitual miso intake was associated with a low prevalence of sarcopenia in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is considered a risk factor for the condition, which is characteristically present in Type 2 diabetes sufferers.
5. Vitamin D
Studies on vitamin D supplementation, including a systematic review of 29 studies, offer compelling evidence of increased muscle strength. Vitamin D deficiency is a common health problem globally, particularly among older individuals. Vitamin D regulates multiple human functions, including the skeletal muscle, so the fat-soluble vitamin may be crucial to maintain and improve muscle strength and physical performance over time.
In a 2012 study, greater visceral fat and lower muscle mass were associated with lower vitamin D3 levels among elderly Korean men. Results suggested that screening for deficiency may be appropriate in the elderly with visceral obesity or sarcopenia.
Explore sarcopenia research on the GreenMedInfo.com database to learn more about nutritional and natural interventions for this condition.