New Research: Stay Strong and Sidestep Sarcopenia
By Dr. Jen Palmer
Sarcopenia is a prevalent problem as we age; it is the process of losing muscle tissue that naturally occurs unless we consciously work to prevent it. It's a serious concern because if muscle strength is low, there is a greater risk of losing balance and having a fall, which can lead to a fracture. Sarcopenia also inhibits physical activity, and over time can cause a downward spiral leading to a decline in mobility. It is a major contributing factor to feeling "old" and it ultimately leads to losing independence as a senior, a situation most of us wish to avoid.
The key to preventing sarcopenia is to do strength training regularly. This may be intimidating for some people, so it's smart to hire a personal trainer to teach you how to safely and effectively create a program.
Other key components to building muscle tissue are getting enough protein and specific nutrients. Research shows that vitamin D and magnesium both aid tissue mitochondria in making ATP, the energy needed to make muscles move. When vitamin D and magnesium are lacking, muscles are tired and inefficient, making it difficult to practice a strength training program. Ironically, these nutrients are commonly deficient in Americans, so most people would benefit from supplementation.
A recent study evaluated strategies for building muscle mass in older women, age 60-90. All did a progressive resistance training program (PRT) and one group had a serving of lean red meat six times weekly, while the other group had pasta or rice. They all were supplemented with vitamin D. The group that had red meat had significantly greater gains in lean tissue mass than the pasta group, over the course of four months. They did not have a significant change in cholesterol levels or blood pressure.
This study indicates that red meat consumption is a safe and effective way to build muscle tissue (combined with PRT). We recommend sticking to organic, grass-fed beef, but if you prefer to avoid meat or don't want it every day, you can substitute with one of the many high-quality protein powders available at NEEDS. Some of the products that offer the highest levels of protein per serving are Natur-Tyme Whey Protein, which contains a whopping 19 grams of protein per serving. If you are sensitive to cow's milk, you can try Goatein, by Garden of Life, which provides 13 grams of protein preserving. If you are vegan, you may want to try Innate Response Formulas Vegan Protein, based on pea protein, which provides 23 grams per serving.
Am J Clin Nutr April 2014 vol. 99 no. 4 899-910