Sidestepping Sarcopenia: Avoiding the Loss of Muscle Mass

July 16, 2013

By Dr. Paul Clayton, Chief Scientific Advisor, Gencor

From early middle age on, most of us lose muscle mass. It’s not inevitable – a very physically active lifestyle can delay or prevent this – but people who are physically inactive lose up to 5% of their muscle mass per decade from age 30.

This age-related loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, affects over 20% of 60-70 year-olds and half of those over age 75. As numbers of elderly folk increase, the socio-economic costs of ill health caused by sarcopenia have become very significant. The most recent (2004) survey of US costs put them as high as $26 billion per year (Janssen et al ’04). In 2008 the Centers for Disease Control named sarcopenia as one of the top five biggest health risks facing the US population. The EU has adopted a similar position.

Sarcopenia patients offer suffer from other related medical conditions. When the loss of muscle mass has led to a loss of mobility and appetite, osteoporosis and general wasting often co-present as the so-called “frailty syndrome.” If calorie intake has been preserved, sarcopenia generally presents with obesity (‘sarcobesity’) and with diabetes (‘metobesity’).

This explains why sarcopenia is associated not only with the falls that cause fractures, but also with complications of diabetes, including a raised risk of vascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, blindness, liver and kidney disease and a range of gastrointestinal cancers. In short, sarcopenia contributes to the entire ageing process, and in the process inflicts a substantial burden of morbidity and mortality (Parr et al ’13).

Sarcopenia is at the center of all these diseases because muscle is not just a way of moving our bodies. It is also a highly important metabolic organ, and is critically involved in blood glucose control and plasma lipid profiles.

For example, when we consume carbohydrates and insulin kicks in, some glucose is taken up by the liver and stored as glycogen. In a fit and physically active person, the bulk of blood glucose is taken up and used as fuel in the skeletal muscles. If muscle mass has fallen, the capacity of muscle to take up and ‘burn’ glucose is dramatically compromised.

This contributes to insulin resistance, glycative stress, chronic inflammation, wide spread tissue damage and accelerated ageing. Similarly, loss of muscle bulk and functionality impairs the muscles’ ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the circulation, creating an atherogenic plasma profile.

The causes of sarcopenia include:

  • Endocrine shift: the menopause and viropause trigger hormone shifts that degrade muscle in women and men
  • Sedentary lifestyle: a risk factor for sarcopenia and many other disorders (ie Owen et al ‘10)
  • Chronic inflammation: a vicious cycle, whereby chronic inflammation drives muscle breakdown and the build-up of adiposity drives inflammation.
  • Dysnutrition (ie Vandewoude et al ’12): insufficient protein & the co-factors required to build muscle protein. Also, fast foods cooked at high temperatures contain high levels of pro-inflammatory compounds
  • Smoking: another cause of chronic inflammation

By examining the causes of sarcopenia we can begin to design programs that will delay or even prevent this core element of the ageing process. This will improve quality of life in the elderly, increase their independence, reduce their needs for health care and cut health care costs. The optimal protective strategy includes resistance exercise and enhanced nutrition.

When nutrition alone cannot meet the body’s requirements, nutritional supplementation may help. For example, Slimaluma may be a good choice for those with sarcobesity or metobesity, Gencor has developed a patented process for extracting the key constituents of the Caralluma Fimbriata plant that are associated with appetite suppression, without chemically altering those constituents. This process has allowed Gencor to develop an effective, safe, and easy-to-use ingredient that helps adults of all ages maintain a healthy weight.

When there is a loss of muscle mass, Testofen may provide support. Testofen is a fenugreek extract standardized to 50% Fenuside. Fenugreek is a well-known, versatile herb that contains over 100 phytochemical constituents, including Furostanol Saponins and Steroidal Saponins. While fenugreek has multiple health applications, the active constituents included in Testofen have been shown to increase muscle mass and support healthy energy levels.

 

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