Top Supplements For Maintaining Muscle Mass in Older Adults

The loss of muscle mass and strength is a common occurrence during the aging process. In fact, it is estimated that most people lose between 1-2% of their muscle mass each year after the age of 50, and this accelerates after the age of 60.1This loss of muscle mass is even more pronounced in the elderly with diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It’s also an ever increasing public health concern because of the risk for falls, injury and decline in quality of life.2 That’s why many researchers are looking at different ways to slow the loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age. This research has shed light on many important nutrients that are critical for helping to support muscle tissue throughout our lifespan. These nutrients include:

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The BCAAs–leucine, isoleucine, and valine–are essential amino acids (meaning that the body cannot make them and they must be obtained through the diet or supplements) that have a unique biological effect in the body. In general, amino acids serve as building blocks for proteins and neurotransmitters in our bodies; BCAAs, in addition, stimulate the biochemical pathway that tells muscles to grow and also prevent muscles from being broken down. 3 When combined with resistance training, BCAAs increase testosterone levels and decrease stress hormones.4 Leucine is considered the most important of these amino acids, but they are all important. 5

HMB

Also known as beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, HMB is a nutrient that is similar to leucine and acts in both a similar and a unique fashion in the body.6 Studies show HMB helps to reduce the muscle loss caused by stress hormones, which often increase as we age.7

Antioxidants

One reason people seem to lose muscle mass as they age is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which cause the production of inflammatory signaling molecules in the body and muscle tissue breakdown.8 Luckily, vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lycopene, astaxanthin) have been shown in several studies to quench free radicals and support healthy muscle mass in aged populations. 9 1o Because omega-3-containing fish oils also have inflammation-modulating capacity, they are another tool to support healthy muscle mass.11

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the population in general; in older people, this is compounded by the fact that the metabolic conversion of vitamin D into its active form decreases as we age.12 Not only is vitamin D important for supporting muscle strength, a low level of vitamin D is associated with increased risk of falls, low bone mineral density and poor immune function. 13 Indeed, vitamin D supplementation has been found to decrease the likelihood of falls in the elderly and has been demonstrated to improve physical performance and strength in numerous studies.14

While these supplements can help maintain healthy muscle mass during the aging process, it is also important to make sure to get regular physical activity and to consume adequate calories.15 Making smoothies and meal replacement shakes is a great way to pack in adequate protein, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats.

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References

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[2]Rodneanelli M, Faliva M, Monteferrario F, Peroni G, Repaci E, Allieri F, Perna S. Novel Insights on Nutrient Management of Sarcopenia in Elderly. Biomed Research International. 2015. 524948: 1-14
[3]Kramer IF, Poeze M, Luiking YC, et al. Basal and post-prandial muscle protein synthesis rates are not reduced in sarcopenic elderly. Clin Nutr. 2014. 33:S127
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[6]Nissen SL, Abumrad NN. Nutritional role of the leucine metabolite β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate (HMB). Jouranl of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2011. 40(4): 1015-1025
[7]Giron MD, VIlchez JD, Shreeram S, et al. β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate (HMB) normalizes dexamethasone-induced autophagy-lysosomal pathway in skeletal muscle. PLoS One. 2015. 10 (2):e0117520
[8]Schaap LA, Pluijm SMF, Deeg DJH, Visser M. Inflammatory markers and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and strength. The American Journal of Medicine. 2006. 119(6): e9-e17
[9]Semba RD, Laurentani F, Ferrucci L. Carotenoids as protection against sarcopenia in older adults. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2007. 458(2): 141-145
[10]Semab RD, Blaum C, Guralnik JM, Moncrief DT, Ricks MO, Fried LP. Carotenoid and vitamin E status are associated with indicators of sarcopenia among older women living in the community. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. 2003. 15(6): 482-487
[11]Fetterman JW, Zdanowicz MM. Therapeutic potential of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in disease. The American Jouranl of Health-system Pharmacy. 2009. 66(13): 1169-1179
[12]Gallagher JC, Riggs BL, Eisman J, et al. Intestinal calcium absorption and serum vitamin D metabolites in normal subjects and osteoporotic patients. Effect of age and dietary calcium. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1979. 64(3): 729-736
[13]Rodneanelli M, Faliva M, Monteferrario F, Peroni G, Repaci E, Allieri F, Perna S. Novel Insights on Nutrient Management of Sarcopenia in Elderly. Biomed Research International. 2015. 524948: 1-14
[14]Muir SW, Montero-Odasso M. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on muscle strength, gain and balance in older adults: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2011. 59(12): 2291-2300
[15]Calvani R, Miccheli A, Landi F, et al. Current nutritional recommendations and novel dietary strategies to manage sarcopenia. J Frailty Aging. 2013. 2(1):38-52