A study conducted in men ages 55-75 years at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has shown that the consumption of lean, high-quality proteins like soy can help prevent sarcopenia—an age-related decline in strength and muscle mass. It is a condition baby boomers face that was unknown to their parents’ generation.
Sarcopenia is estimated to affect 30 percent of individuals over 60 years of age and more than 50 percent of people over 80 and has significant quality of life consequences for aging individuals.
Findings from the study conducted with grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and DuPont Nutrition & Health were recently published in the Journal of Nutrition.
It is now recognized that between age 50 and 60, muscle mass decreases at an annual rate of 1-2 percent. After 60, muscle loss decreases at an annual rate of 3 percent. Identifying the cause and potential therapies or preventative measures is an active area of research.
Both exercise and diet are important factors in maintaining muscle health, but researchers have recently uncovered that the response to each becomes blunted as we age. The UTMB controlled clinical study compared the response to consuming two different beverages that provided different sources of high-quality protein, one hour after a bout of high intensity resistance exercise. This is the first study to investigate muscle protein metabolism in aging individuals in response to consumption of a blend of proteins, which is more representative of how people consume protein.
Research conducted in both young and older subjects demonstrates the importance of delivering the amino acid leucine to promote anabolic signaling and skeletal muscle protein synthesis. In this study, the two groups were not matched for leucine content but both groups received enough leucine to exceed the minimum threshold to shift protein turnover into an anabolic state.
“Our data provide additional support for the use of targeted nutritional interventions to overcome a critical condition of aging, anabolic resistance, to counteract sarcopenia,” said lead researcher Blake Rasmussen, Ph.D., chair, Department of Nutrition and Metabolism at UTMB.
The study adds to the understanding of how the aging population responds to preventive measures, diet and resistance exercise. This segment represents a significant and increasing proportion of the population. Focus on their specific needs will continue to grow.
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