Sarcopenia is a Killer and You Should Know About It

Sarcopenia is a Killer and You Should Know About It

Sarcopenia is a condition that we are ALL at risk of getting and it’s really quite scary.  It is defined as a process of reduction in skeletal muscle mass and muscular function that begins after the third decade of life (yeah, by age 40) and progresses as we age.  If we look at the body as having hundreds of thousands of different proteins/enzymes, and each muscle is made up of primarily protein, this problem begins to look really bad.  It’s one thing to have loss of skeletal muscle and be able to see yourself getting softer and weaker as you age, it’s another to not be able to see the decay in our heart and other organs.  Think about it…you are not just losing muscle mass and health on the outside, it’s occurring on the inside as well.   The problem is that this will not be identified usually until you have a significant health problem…and who wants that?  Sarcopenia is a condition of malnutrition yet almost nobody in the US does anything about it until it causes serious health issues.

Healthcare costs in the year 2000 were 18.5 billion dollars for the treatment of Sarcopenia and its related disease processes and that number is far greater now (this amount constituted 1.5% of the total health care cost of the nation in 2000).  Sarcopenia is well studied in the literature and all physicians should be discussing this topic with their adult patients (before they become geriatric patients). Sarcopenia has a direct link to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), contributes to osteoporosis and related fractures, increases hip fracture riskcontributes to mental disorders, increases the risk of postoperative complications, and more.

One of the bigger concerns with Sarcopenia is that it has a link to mitochondrial damage.  This is a big deal as mitochondrial damage is linked to almost all disease processes in the human body. So, listen up…if you are near 40, at 40, or over 40, you need to pay attention if you want to be healthy and maximize your life!  This is nothing to laugh about.  As a society, we are getting softer and weaker as we age and yes, we can do something about it.

For those out there who still think we get enough protein, the easy way to prove this point wrong is by looking at our population as a whole and recognizing that Sarcopenia affects a large amount of our adult population.  Simply put, we are wasting away…yikes!  We have to concede that very little is being done to address this serious problem. The great thing is that with some basic lifestyle improvements, we can get healthier…yes, it’s that simple!

We have to keep in mind that the out of date notion that ‘don’t eat too much protein as it leads to positive nitrogen balance or kidney damage’ is simply that: out of date.  This blog falls on the heels of my last blog that discussed what caloric restricted resistance training athletes need for protein needs.  To many, this amount of protein would seem high, but the research, for some time, has been showing that we are not consuming enough high quality protein.  It’s time for healthcare professionals to update their knowledge on protein and make proper recommendations.  More protein isn’t needed just for those who are lean and active, it’s needed for everyone!

Treatment for sarcopenia involves being active/exercising and eating more protein to offset the age-related loss.  A 2015 double blind randomized study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that a Vitamin D and leucine enriched whey (protein) ‘nutritional supplement’ improved muscle mass and lowered the risk of Sarcopenia.  Another study from 2015, this one a review study, suggests at least 25-30gm of ‘high quality’ protein at each meal to prevent Sarcopenia.  Beasley et. al authored a great study in 2013 in Nutrition in Clinical Practice that discussed how whey protein works better than other proteins at muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and his study makes recommendations to consider protein supplementation for those who are Sarcopenic and are not getting in enough protein (this basically means all of them).   

In the next few blogs, I’ll be writing about the best ways to extend your life/reduce diseases as per the literature.  In regards to Sarcopenia, we need to get in more high quality protein.  So this begs the question: what is the best protein to ingest, how do I compare protein sources,  and where do I get the best stuff?  To whet your appetite, I’ll mention that the literature shows that whey is the best protein.  As to where to get it, ask me now or wait until I write about it.

More on its way…stay tuned!


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