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Fountain of Youth
For centuries, mankind has been searching for the proverbial “fountain of youth” to no avail. That hasn’t stopped us from hoping that someday there will be a magic potion or pill that can slow the aging process. But, what if we were to tell you that there really is a secret to healthy aging?
The secret is rooted in the avoidance of a condition that you’ve probably never heard of, called sarcopenia. While you may not have heard of it, you’ve likely felt its effects if you are over the age of 50.
What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is to muscle what osteoporosis is to bone. By age 30, many individuals have begun to lose muscle mass. This can amount to as much as 10% loss per decade between 30 and 60 years of age, and 15% each decade thereafter. This may not seem significant but strength loss associated with sarcopenia is double that of muscle mass, which means you’re looking at as much as 30% of strength loss every decade over age 60. Extrapolating that to age 80, you are looking at a life where you do not have sufficient strength to get out of bed, get up from a chair, bring your groceries in on your own, or worse!
Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation
Sarcopenia is defined and diagnosed clinically as a muscle disease that causes severe loss of muscle mass, muscular strength, and physical function. Like many chronic diseases, it is so insidious that early diagnosis is a rarity. It is estimated that some 30 million people in the U.S. are living with undiagnosed sarcopenia . Left untreated, it will rob your independence, quality of life and your life savings .
Most Aging Fears are Rooted in Sarcopenia
Is it possible that most of your fears about aging are actually rooted in sarcopenia? YES! Aging, in the U.S. anyway, is associated with weakness, frailty, falling, injury, cognitive decline, hospitalization, metabolic disease, and a painful, eventual death following years of suffering from the aforementioned. It may surprise you to learn that not one of these is due to aging in and of itself. Rather, each has a thread that more often than not can be tied back to sarcopenia.
You see, skeletal muscle—the type of muscle that is most often associated with fitness—is actually our body’s largest organ system that is arguably the most important to our overall health. Not only is it responsible for force production (strength) and speed of force production (power), skeletal muscle also plays a significant role in the regulation of our hormonal (endocrine) system, nervous system, and therefore most of our metabolic pathways including glucose (blood sugar) regulation, and energy production .
Skeletal muscle consists of two very different types of cells—Type I and Type II. Combined, these different muscle cells form muscle fibers, which are designed to contract when stimulated and are primarily comprised of proteins. Type I fibers are also referred to as “slow twitch” because their purpose is endurance (i.e., numerous contractions over a long period of time). These fibers are classically associated with endurance or “aerobic” (requiring oxygen) activities named from the way that energy is actually being produced in the body. Type II fibers, conversely, exist to do the exact opposite of their Type I counterpart. These are your “fast twitch” muscles that allow you to generate force over a shorter period of time as is required with burst type activities, which are “anaerobic” in nature, such as sprinting or weight lifting.
Sarcopenia disproportionately affects Type II muscle fibers because as we age, our bodies are preprogrammed to convert Type II fibers to Type I fibers, especially if we aren’t stimulating our Type II fibers sufficiently to maintain or cause them to grow, and are not getting enough protein in our daily diets.
Sarcopenia is also thought to be related to hormonal signals that regulate muscle cell growth and teardown. Depending on your genetic makeup, as you age, the growth pathways within your muscle cells will at some point become less sensitive, leading to muscle loss . While this is a somewhat natural physiological consequence of aging it is clearly accelerated by your lifestyle choices—physical activity, stress, water consumption, and nutrition—and even leading geneticists agree that one’s lifestyle habits do positively influence one’s genetics .
This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but if you are over age 50 and you are unsure what activities protect your Type II muscle fibers, and you are equally unclear how much protein you need on a daily basis to maintain these fibers, then you are at risk for sarcopenia. This means, you are at risk of all your “age-related” fears coming to fruition.
Can Sarcopenia be Prevented?
According to VitalityHealth, one of the leading sarcopenia research, prevention and treatment organization’s in the country, the really good news is that sarcopenia is not only preventable to a large extent, but it is also reversible if you already have it…at any age.
The two leading factors that lead to sarcopenia are a sedentary lifestyle and inadequate protein intake or absorption. These are both modifiable factors, and new studies have shown that we can not only preserve muscle, but we can increase it. For example, a randomized trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that muscle volume could be preserved during an intentional weight loss program . The key was getting the right nutrients into the body and combining that with proper resistance training.
The simple equation to combating Sarcopenia
“Sarcopenia is not only preventable…
it is also reversible at any age”
The Role of Protein in Combatting Sarcopenia
Protein is a critical macronutrient in aging and one that is essential for slowing sarcopenia. Within its Sarcopenia Clinics, VitalityHealth, has successfully treated over 50,000 patients, males and females, an average age of 77, including several centurions. It’s founder, Matthew Essex (M.S.), has been conducting sarcopenia research and developing cutting-edge sarcopenia prevention programs for over 20 years. Yet, it wasn’t until recently that he chose to partner with a nutrition company…
“As a sarcopenia research scientist, I have known of the importance of protein in sarcopenia prevention for some time. The challenge with older adults is that we cannot assume that protein consumed is protein absorbed. MEND is one of very few clinical nutrition companies that understand this essential factor, and the only company I’ve seen develop a specific nutrient blend for sarcopenia. When I saw the clinical sophistication of the MEND Regenerate formula and validated the depths they go to ensure quality with all of their products the decision to trust MEND as our first and only nutrition partner was easy.”
In summary, preventing sarcopenia is the secret to healthy aging! You can prevent sarcopenia—along with the most of the other problems you desire to avoid as you age—and drastically improve your overall vitality and quality of life by simply choosing to prioritize your muscle health. Just two proper resistance training sessions and a scoop of quality nutrition like MEND Regenerate a day is the best way to “keep the doctor away” – and apples are good too!
- Cruz-Jentoft A, Bahat G, Bauer J, et al. Sarcopenia: revised European consensus on definition and diagnosis. Age and Ageing. 2019.
- Janssen I, Shepard DS, et al. The healthcare costs of sarcopenia in the United States. J Am Geriatr Soc 52:80–85. 2004.
- Hunter G , Singh H, et al. Sarcopenia and Its Implications for Metabolic Health. Journal of Obesity. 2019.
- Verreijen AM, Verlaan S, et al. A high whey protein-, leucine-, and vitamin D-enriched supplement preserves muscle mass during intentional weight loss in obese older adults: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014.
- Markofski MM, Dickinson JM, et al. Effect of age on basal muscle protein synthesis and mTORC1 signaling in a large cohort of young and older men and women. Experimental Gerontology. 2015.
- Uppsala University. Genetic effects are influenced by lifestyle. ScienceDaily. 2017.
- Bhasin S, Apovian C, et al. Effect of Protein Intake on Lean Body Mass in Functionally Limited Older Men: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Med. 2018.