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Deep Dive: Supplementing for senior strength and size in the context of sarcopenia

This systematic review and meta-analysis explored what supplements can stave off the loss of muscle function that comes with aging. However, the way it categorized the studies it used, along with the overall low quality of those studies, makes its conclusions seem a bit... weak.

Study under review: Factors influencing the efficacy of nutritional interventions on muscle mass in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Introduction

Loss of muscle mass during old age, also called sarcopenia, is associated with all-cause mortality[1], fall and fracture risk[2], and some disease states, like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease[3]. It is one of the most important[1] modifiable risk factors of all-cause mortality and disease. Sarcopenia is multifactorial[4], but is greatly affected by malnutrition, amount and type of physical activity, and prolonged immobilization. All of these factors, combined, accentuate the loss of muscle mass and function, reducing the quality of life for elderly people.

One of the ways in which researchers are trying to combat sarcopenia is by using[5] nutritional interventions that either prevent the loss of, or even increase, muscle mass. Whereas the molecular pathways that are involved are not completely understood, muscle mass is maintained by the balance between muscle protein synthesis (the creation of new muscle proteins) and breakdown (the degradation of muscle proteins). Resistance exercise is the most potent way of stimulating muscle growth, but supplementing dietary protein (and amino acids) can also help. Hence, supplementation with amino acids and/or protein might help combat sarcopenia. In addition, some other popular supplements that can theoretically modulate this balance may offer benefits. The way in which these supplements are consumed, including the type of supplement, dose, frequency, timing, duration and adherence, may be key to obtaining the desired effects.

The authors of the current systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effects of these parameters on muscle mass in older adults.

Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass during old age, is an important risk factor for all-cause mortality and disease in elderly people. In addition to resistance exercise, nutrition plays an important role, as it can modulate the muscle protein balance. However, the efficacy of nutritional supplements that could provide benefits in the context of sarcopenia depend on factors like type, dose, frequency, timing, duration and adherence.

What was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #75 (January 2021)