You’ve heard of Osteoporisis, which involves the weakening of bones, but what about the weakening of muscles? Introducing sarcopenia – the slow but progressive reduction of muscle mass.
What is Sarcopenia?
If we go back to basics, sarcopenia literally means ‘poverty of flesh’ – from the Greek sarx for flesh and penia for poverty. It is a naturally occurring health condition that causes loss of muscle mass as we age. Beginning in our 40’s, sarcopenia results in the progressive loss of between 1% and 2% of our muscle mass and strength each year. Left unchecked, the loss of muscle mass can result in frailty and restricted independence.
Who is at risk?
Sarcopenia is generally attributed to a few risk factors: being over 40 years of age, living a sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition.
As we age, the efficiency with which our body replaces and grows muscle diminishes. Over time, and left unchecked, this can lead to significantly weakened muscle mass, reduced strength and physical frailty.
What symptoms should I look for?
The most obvious symptom is loss of physical strength and reduced muscle size.
This series of leg muscle cross sections demonstrates the visible effects of muscle wastage.
This first image shows the leg of a 40 year old triathlete, containing a large amount of muscle surrounding the bone.
This second image shows the leg of a 74 year old sedentary man – there is a dramatic loss of muscle mass when compared to the previous image.
The final MRI image shows the leg of a 70 year old triathlete, with a large amount of muscle mass around the bone, similar to the first image. This puts into perspective how dramatic muscle wastage can be.
Reference: Andrew P. Wroblewski MBS, BS, Francesca Amati MD, PhD, Mark A. Smiley MBA, BS, Bret Goodpaster PhD & Vonda Wright MD, MS (2011) Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 39:3, 172-178.
How can I prevent sarcopenia?
Adequate nutrition and moderate exercise play a major role in both avoiding and treating sarcopenia. Research shows that as adults age, they need more protein than they did at a younger age to maintain muscle mass. This process begins in one’s 40’s. Protein is the most valuable nutrient for repairing and building muscle.
Therefore, in addition to maintaining a regular exercise routine, it can be beneficial to supplement your diet with a product rich in protein.
One of the most suitable food supplements with the right ingredients to help prevent or reduce sarcopenia is Enprocal. It’s a high protein powdered food supplement (high in whey protein), with many vitamins and minerals to further enhance nutritional intake among those at-risk. Mix it into selected foods or drinks you consume daily to help provide the nutrition needed to support everyday healthy living, while keeping sarcopenia at bay.