By Will Brink
Several nutrients, including creatine, vitamin D, and whey protein, have shown great promise in combating sarcopenia.
Creatine. The muscle atrophy commonly seen in older adults comes mainly from a loss of fast-twitch (Type II) muscle fibers that are recruited during high-intensity movements, such as weight lifting and sprinting. These are the fibers most profoundly affected by the dietary supplement creatine. Various studies have found that when creatine is given to older adults who are participating in resistance exercise training, it helps increase strength and lean body mass.
Vitamin D. While scientists have long known that vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, recent studies suggest that it is also essential for maintaining muscle mass in aging people. Vitamin D helps preserve the Type II muscle fibers that are prone to atrophy in the elderly. Scientists recently noted that vitamin D helps support both muscle and bone tissue, and that low vitamin D levels seen in older adults may be associated with poor bone formation and muscle function.
Whey protein. Many older adults find it difficult to obtain enough high-quality protein from dietary sources. Whey protein, which is derived from dairy products, may help aging adults to optimize their protein intake and protect against muscle loss. Whey has an exceptionally high biological value—that is, it contains amino acids in proportions that are similar to those required by humans.
Additional Nutrients of Interest
When developing a comprehensive supplement regimen to prevent or treat sarcopenia, several other nutrients deserve consideration. These include omega-3 fatty acids, carnitine compounds, and the amino acid glutamine. Although scientists have yet to study their specific effects in relation to sarcopenia, these nutrients have biological activities and mechanisms of action that suggest a potentially beneficial role in promoting healthy muscle mass.
For example, the omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) has been found to preserve muscle mass under various physiological conditions.
Carnitine formulations are known to help enhance athletic performance and may help promote healthy muscle mass in older adults who are prone to sarcopenia.
Critical Importance of Exercise
Exercise is critically important in preventing and managing sarcopenia. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones that promote healthy muscle mass. These include growth hormone, which acts throughout the body, as well as local growth factors, such as mechano growth factor. Exercise helps combat the loss of essential muscle and bone seen with aging, and may enhance the effects of other interventions, such as hormone replacement therapy.
Millions of people will become weak and frail as they age due to severe loss of muscle mass. The good news is, you do not have to be one of them.
By adopting a regimen that includes dietary modifications, hormone replacement therapy as indicated, nutritional supplements, and exercise, it is possible to dramatically improve lean muscle mass at virtually any age.
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