Diet and exercise may help prevent sarcopenia

January 18, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic problems

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As people age, their bodies change. One transformation that may be particularly worrisome is that, after individuals turn 45, they tend to lose about 1 percent of their muscle mass every year going forward. This process is medically referred to as sarcopenia, and it is the result of protein deficiency, lack of exercise and increased frailty, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although the natural aging process may make this difficult to avoid, a recent review by the International Osteoporosis Foundation explains that some nutrients and forms of exercise can help preserve muscle mass, strength and performance among the elderly. This is important, as sarcopenia makes individuals more vulnerable to issues with physically functioning on a regular basis and other orthopaedic problems.

There are three key nutritional factors in preventing sarcopenia. These include increased levels of protein and vitamin D, as well as lower amounts of acid-producing nutrients, like meat and cereal grains, and alkalizing fruits and vegetables. In addition, researchers are currently looking into whether vitamin B12 and folic acid may improve musculoskeletal health.

Vitamin D in particular can be difficult to get enough of, as it does not exist in very many foods, except for those that are fortified with it. The best ways for people to consume adequate levels of the nutrient is to get sun exposure, which triggers the body to produce vitamin D, or take a supplement.

Other than dietary factors, staying physically active is also important for an individual trying to reduce his or her chance of developing the condition.

"The most obvious intervention against sarcopenia is exercise in the form of resistance training," said study co-author Jean-Philippe Bonjour. "However, adequate nutritional intake and an optimal dietary acid-base balance are also very important elements of any strategy to preserve muscle mass and strength during aging."

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