Age-related muscle loss: Study finds rapamycin may delay sarcopenia; diet, exercise key to minimise decay
Reduced muscle mass with age means greater weakness, impaired mobility and strength and a higher risk of falls and fractures.
The muscles in your body are at their peak while you’re in your 20s, but this changes soon after you hit your 30s. According to Harvard Health Publishing, age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia is a natural part of ageing, and you can lose 3-5 percent of muscle mass every decade starting from your 30s. Reduced muscle mass with age means greater weakness, impaired mobility and strength and a higher risk of falls and fractures.
Why sarcopenia shows up with increasing age
A new study published in Nature Communications explains that although life expectancy is increasing thanks to advances in medical science and healthcare, so are age-related diseases with sarcopenia leading the charge. The study says that although there are many causes behind sarcopenia, including age-related metabolic and nerve changes, identifying the molecular signature of sarcopenia may be the clue to discovering how to delay or treat it properly.
The researchers behind this study focused on understanding how the activation or suppression of mTORC1 — or the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1, a protein that synthesizes lean muscle mass — in the body can affect age-related muscle loss. The study was done on two groups of mice, one treated with rapamycin and a control group that didn’t get rapamycin treatment. The researchers found that prolonged activation of mTORC1 triggers muscle wasting and is a hallmark of sarcopenia.
This indicates that overactive skeletal muscle mTORC1 is a hallmark of sarcopenia and a key cause behind the age-related loss of muscle. The study also concludes that long-term mTORC1 suppression through treatment with the drug rapamycin can significantly reduce age-related loss of skeletal muscle size and function. There are currently no pharmaceutical treatments available for sarcopenia, so these findings provide the scientific community with the hope that muscle-wasting and loss with age may be reduced or delayed with treatment.
How to prevent sarcopenia
And while the findings of this study still need to be tested through human trials for global application, there are methods — non-pharmacological ones — through which you can reduce the risk of sarcopenia. A study published in Nutrition Research in 2017 recommends the proper adoption of two key lifestyle methods that can work against age-related muscle loss.
1. Diet: Protein intake is key, and the study recommends the consumption of 1.4 g of protein/kg of body weight (or more) per day as you age. Whey protein, chicken, lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, whole grains like quinoa and nuts and seeds are rich sources of protein you should consume more of as you enter the 30s. You should also focus on other nutrients that help in protein syntheses like vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and creatine. Consult a doctor or nutritionist to find out if you need supplementation to make up for deficiencies of any of these nutrients.
2. Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle is the biggest enemy of muscles, so getting up and exercising can help you maintain and even increase your muscle mass. But this does not mean you can simply do some stretching or light yoga asanas and expect your muscles to grow. Resistance training, weight training, high-intensity interval training, aerobic exercise, cycling, power yoga, jogging and brisk walking are some forms of exercise that can help maintain and build more muscle.
For more information, read our article on Best foods for muscle growth.
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