Sarcopenia – Can Protein and BCAA help those Aging?

Our muscle strength peaks when we reach 30 years old. Over the age of 50, our muscles get weaker at a rate of around 15 per cent every ten years; increasing to 30 per cent per decade after the age of 70. Additionally, our skeletal muscle mass decreases by up to 50% between the ages of 20 to 90. A recent systematic review published in Age and Ageing reported that age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia, affects up to 1 in 20 over 60-year-olds, and up to one-third of older people living in institutional settings like care homes.

The high prevalence of sarcopenia is of particular concern given the global ageing population. Sarcopenia can lead to frailty, increased risk of falls and a loss of independence. All of which can substantially reduce an individual’s quality of life while increasing pressure on healthcare systems. Care home admissions go up as muscle function declines.
The European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP) published guidelines on the definition and diagnosis of age-related sarcopenia in 2010. This clear standard has allowed improved research into diagnosis and treatment of sarcopenia. The British Geriatric Society recommends all social and health care interactions with the elderly should include screening for frailty, including sarcopenia, using standardized guidelines, and agreed measurements.

The systematic review published in Age and Ageing, reports that nutrition and exercise interventions can be used to effectively manage sarcopenia. However, these strategies are not only useful for managing sarcopenia. A healthy, nutritious, balanced diet with increased protein intake accompanied by resistance training can improve wider health outcomes.

In addition to being the precursors for protein synthesis, it appears that essential amino acids may directly stimulate the synthetic process. Among the essential amino acids, BCAAs have been shown to be the major carriers of amino nitrogen between the viscera and the peripheral tissues, including skeletal muscle, but more importantly, they appear to be the ones most responsible for the direct stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Specifically, leucine is the most potent of the BCAAs for the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.

In old rats, the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis can be restored if leucine concentration is at a high level. In humans, it’s been demonstrated that the anabolic response of whole-body protein turnover was normalised in the elderly if a protein-pulse feeding pattern (80% of daily protein in 1 meal) was used instead of spread-protein feeding (daily protein intake equally distributed), suggesting that a large amount of amino acid may be needed in the elderly to suppress sarcopenia.

At Opalbond we have an extensive history in supplying protein snacks and BCAA drinks which could be the perfect fit for any healthcare brand looking to combat the effects of sarcopenia. Why not fill your grandma's biscuit tin with protein cookies rather than chocolate bourbons?