The definition of sarcopenia is the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength - this can come with ageing, lack of exercise and lack of muscle use.
This diagram shows a clear picture of sarcopenia. You can see that both people are similar sizes however one person has a loss of muscle, more adipose tissue(fat), and you can clearly see this same person has a thinning of the bone.
Some say that this is a condition that comes with age, however it can also be seen at a very young age with lack of activity/exercise. This could be a lifestyle choice or it could be due to injury, or immobility. Many people concentrate on the health of bones, and the nutrients to help bone density, however the integrity of the muscle is critical to helping the bone density. The great news is this condition can be improved or for some reversed, yet prevention is always a preference.
Skeletal muscle in a healthy adult makes up about 40 % of total body mass. The main role of muscle is to maintain posture, help breathing and aid movement. A secondary role is to hold nutrients and aid metabolism. An adult's muscle strength peaks when people are in their 40s. After 50 years of age muscle strength declines at a rate of 1.2- 1.5% a year and the muscle mass declines 0.8% every year. Then by 65 years onwards muscle strength declines 3.5%-6% per year and by 80 years of age the average person will have lost 35-40% of their muscle mass and 20-40% of their strength.
Sadly sarcopenia can be exacerbated by physical inactivity and poor nutrition. In healthy ageing there is naturally a decline in muscle mass and strength however we do not need this to be exaggerated. The risk factors of sarcopenia is the weakening of bones, increased risk of bad fractures, physical disability, more susceptibility to sprains and dislocations, muscle tiredness and muscle weakness. I often ask people after bone breaks, "was your break in proportion to the fall". In people with sarcopenia and/ or osteoporosis the fracture is worse than expected and the recovery slower.
It is very simple to see that the most obvious cause of sarcopenia is a sedentary lifestyle or a health condition that prevents muscle usage like an injury or disability.
Then there is the causes of this condition due to malnutrition, inability to eat, malabsorption or limited access to healthy foods. Do not assume it is always a skinny person's condition sometimes it can be seen in obesity. In obesity the weight and fat is high but the muscle can be extremely low. Other conditions that can cause sarcopenia are systemic autoimmune conditions, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, polymyalgia rheumatica, fibromyalgia, hemochromatosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In diabetes the condition can cause sarcopenia and the sarcopenia can cause diabetes. Which comes first? I feel this could be the same in many autoimmune conditions. It is also really important to look at hormonal influences on muscle mass. Hormones like testosterone drop as we get older and this certainly impacts the muscle mass. Watching hormone levels with saliva or urine testing is an accurate way of monitoring your hormones.
Here are the clinic we like to look at helping the whole person: the diet and nutrients, absorption, look at the causative factors, encouraging movement and healthy weight bearing exercise throughout your whole life. There are specific nutrients and proteins to help muscle recovery and repair. Recently the talk has been about HMB or Beta-Hydroxy- Beta -methylbutyrate which is a metabolite of the brain chain amino acid leucine. Both leucine and HMB can enhance protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. Then there are the minerals and vitamins and the gut health that play a role. There are herbs to enhance testosterone levels and that lower inflammation. Inflammation of any kind hinders healthy muscle and healthy body functions.
Each Practitioner can look at what may be useful to you individually such as:
Proteins – Proline, Glycine, Leucine, Lysine
Gut Health – Probiotics, Prebiotics and Colostrum
DHA, EPA – Fish oil, Algae
Methylation – B12, Folate, B6
Do not hesitate to talk to one of our practitioners if you are concerned about sarcopenia and or bone health. Once you make up your mind to help the health of your muscle things can be done straight away to improve this condition.