Greetings friends. Today I am going to talk about some new reasearch that has some real promise in helping people who are suffering from Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is muscle wasting and loss of strength that comes with age. A recently published study by Malkanthi Evans, Najla Guthrie, John Pezzullo, Toran Sanli, Roger A. Fielding and Aouatef Bellamine has shown the effectiveness of 3 commonly consumed and naturally produced amino acids found in complete proteins may well hold the key to delaying and preventing sarcopenia and helping the elderly to maintain good strength well into their later years. Physical function declines with advancing age, often leading to a loss of independence and poor quality of life (QoL). Functionality is a recognized indicator of health status which is associated with declining muscle performance. Strikingly, it is estimated that 45% of the older U.S. population is sarcopenic and that approximately 20% of the older U.S. population is functionally disabled, leading to upwards of $26.2 billion in healthcare expenditures annually. Several working groups established different measures to characterize sarcopenia (hand grip, gate speed, standing from sitting position, etc.). However all agreed that loss in muscle mass and functional strength leading to compromised physical activity are the common factors in defining sarcopenia. The mechanisms behind this condition have not been universally accepted yet. However, it is well recognized that sarcopenia is accelerated by the lack of physical activity, alterations in metabolism, neuromuscular deterioration, and marginal nutrient intake and absorption.
Although, identifying interventions to slow down muscle wasting and loss of strength in older populations remains challenging, evidence is emerging that specific types of physical activity and nutritional intake may affect muscle loss with aging. Physical activity can improve muscle strength and function, but engaging older adults in structured resistance or endurance exercise can be arduous, especially if there are underlying health issues. Growing evidence indicates that nutritional supplementation, including increased protein intake can largely reverse muscle wasting in the elderly and improve lean muscle mass and strength in older adults. In particular, essential amino acids have been reported to increase lean body mass and basal protein synthesis.
The amino acids studied in this trial were L-Carnitine, L-Leucine and Creatine. Now any athletes out there will already know the value of these to athletic performance but it would seem they are also essential in preventing and reversing sarcopenia. To understand how, let’s learn a little more about them.
- L-Carnintine – L-Carnitine is a conditionally essential amino-acid-like molecule found predominantly in skeletal muscle and endogenously synthesized (made naturally in the body) in the liver and kidney in humans . L-Carnitine is required for energy metabolism from substrates such as fat, carbohydrates and proteins. Its main role is to transport long chain fatty acid to the mitochondrial matrix for ß-oxidation. In addition, L-Carnitine increases protein biosynthesis by sparing the use of amino acids for energy production. More importantly in the context of this article, L-Carnitine suppressed genes responsible for protein degradation in skeletal muscle and decreased muscle RING-finger protein-1 (MuRF1) and ubiquitin-protein conjugates, involved in protein catabolism (muscle breakdown), as well as increases the levels of IGF-1 and Akt1, two upstream elements in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), the main driver of protein anabolism (muscle repair and growth). In laymans terms, it helps prevent muscle breakdown and supports muscle repair and growth.
- L-Leucine – L-leucine, a branched amino acid, in combination with other protein extracts stimulated muscle protein synthesis in elderly women. L-Leucine combines with L-Carnitine to help prevent the breakdown of muscle.
- Creatine – Creatine is a bioenergy fuel compound important in muscle metabolism, is found in meat sources and is endogenously synthesized (made naturally in the body) from glycine, L-methionine and L-arginine (all amino acids found in complete proteins like meat, eggs etc)in the liver, the kidney and the pancreas. The creatine/phosphocreatine system, responsible for maintaining intracellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for immediate use during muscle contraction, is deficient in aging populations . As a dietary supplement, creatine promotes muscle protein synthesis and acutely enhances L-leucine bioavailability by decreasing its oxidation. Creatine supplementation has also been suggested to help prevent muscle breakdown post exercise.
The trial concluded that L-Carnitine in combination with L-leucine and creatine, significantly enhanced lean muscle mass and functional strength particularly in the lower legs, likely due to an improved protein anabolism through the mTOR pathway (muscle tissue creation). The combination product was found to be safe, well tolerated, and may provide additional performance value with prolonged use beyond the 8-week study period in healthy older adults.
So What Does This Mean For You?
The study showed a couple of interesting things here. Firstly and most obviously; increasing your dietary intake of good quality protein from complete protein sources such as organic meats, eggs, fish and high quality protein supplements like Inca Inchi Protein is going to help prevent muscle wasting and loss of strength as you age. Gentle exercise and light resistance training is also going to work well in combination with an increased intake of good quality protein to help attain positive outcomes. The other part that is not so obvious is that keeping the internal organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas in good working order is also very important so as they can continue to function well in the synthesis of these 3 amino acids so therefore getting plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, fibre and keeping well hydrated is also important to help prevent muscle wasting or sarcopenia as this helps keep these organs healthy and functioning properly.
Eating a good, balanced diet that is loaded with real food; good quality meats and proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats is going to help prevent muscle wasting and loss of strength as you age. It would seem science here is pointing to good old common sense! Just eat well!
Should I supplement?
For those who just want to add a little more protein to your diets then I still recommend using real foods first but for some this is impossible or inconvenient or your need is more urgent, so in these cases I recommend using Inca Inchi protein. It is highly bioavailable and particularly well tolerated. Failing that then Hemp or Pea protein is still very good and most useful. Personally I avoid whey/dairy based proteins as they tend to contain too much unwanted additives and soy should be avoided for the same reasons as they can cause digestive problems. If you are unsure, then visit your natural health practitioner, naturopath or nutritionist for some advice on what suits your situation best.
Well that’s it from me today. I hope this helps you. Until next time, be well, naturally.
Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner & Remedial Therapist
My own clinical knowledge
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