Treating Sarcopenia

There are currently no approved drug treatments for sarcopenia. Researchers face limitations in developing studies due to the lack of standardized primary outcomes (this means, because it is a new field, protocols and outcomes for drug-related sarcopenia studies are difficult to determine)1.

Research is now focusing on the role of physical activity, nutrition, and potential future medications that may be used to treat or prevent sarcopenia.

Exercise

After a program of resistance training is introduced, research shows that motor neuron firing and protein synthesis (both of which are needed in building muscle mass) increase even in the elderly2,3. These changes indicate it is possible to rebuild muscle strength even at an advanced age.

Aerobic exercise also appears to aid in the fight against sarcopenia4. Read more about exercise.

Nutrition

Adequate nutrition intake plays a major role in treating sarcopenia. Research has shown older adults may need more protein per kilogram than their younger counterparts to maintain proper levels that reinforce muscle mass5,6.

Protein intake of 1.0-1.2 g/kg of body weight per day is probably optimum for older adults7. This theory, coupled with the fact that older adults tend to take in fewer calories in general, may lead to pronounced protein deficiency as well as deficiency of other important nutrients. Therefore, maintaining adequate protein intake as well as adequate caloric intake is an important facet of the treatment of this disease.

Diets rich in acid producing foods (meat and cereal grains) and low in non-acid producing foods (fruits and vegetables) have been shown to have negative effects on muscle mass7. As mentioned above, protein is important, but a diet high in meat and cereal grains should be balanced with a diet high in fruits and vegetable (nonacid-producing foods) in order to be effective in treating sarcopenia. Discover our bone health recepies. Read more about nutrition.

Supplements

There is some evidence to support that creatine supplements can also aid in muscle development for older adults that are following a resistance training program8,9.

Maintaining appropriate blood levels of vitamin D may also aid in maintaining muscle strength and physical performance7.

References

1. Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis, Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People," Age and Ageing Advance Access originally published online on April 13, 2010, Age and Ageing 2010 39(4):412-423
2. Roth S.M., R.E. Ferrel, & B.F. Hurley. 2000. “Strength Training for the Prevention and Treatment of Sarcopenia.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 4(3):143-155
3. Hasten, D.L. et al. 2000. “Resistance Exercise Acutely Increases MHC and Mixed Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in 78-84 and 23-32 yr olds.” American Journal of Physiology 278:620-626.
4. Sheffield-Moore M, Yeckel CW, Volpi E, et al. (2004) Post-exercise metablolism in older and younger men following moderate aerobic exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287:E513-E522
5. Campbell WW, Crim MC, Dallal GE, Young VR, Evans WJ. Increased protein requirements in elderly people: data and retrospective reassessments. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Oct;60(4):501-9
6. Campbell WW, Evans WJ. Protein requirements of elderly people. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Feb;50 Suppl 1S180-3
7. Mithal A, Bonjour J-P, Boonen S, Burckhardt P, Degens H, El Hajj Fuleihan G,  Josse R,  Lips P, Morales Torres J, Rizzoli R, Yoshimura N, Wahl D.A., Cooper C, Dawson-Hughes B(2011) Impact of nutrition on muscle strength and performance in older adults. Osteoporosis International (in press)
8. Brose A, Parise G, Tarnopolsky MA. Creatine supplementation enhances isometric strength and body composition improvements following strength exercise training in older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 Jan;58(1):11-9
9. Chrusch MJ, Chilibeck PD, Chad KE, Davison KS, Burke DG. Creatine supplementation combined with resistance training in older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Dec;33(12):2111-7