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New insight into the role of protein, leucine, fish oil, and vitamin D in sarcopenia and functional decline

The aging process is associated with sarcopenia and functional decline. The loss of muscle mass between the ages of 40 and 80 is approximately 30%–60%, and is associated with disability, illness, and death. Prevention strategies are the most effective treatment options against musculoskeletal aging.

In a recent review published in Nutrients, researchers investigated the role of specific nutrients in sarcopenia and functional decline.

Evidence supports higher protein intake recommendations of 1.0 to 1.2 gram/kg per day in healthy older adults. In addition to protein intake, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may be considered to preserve lean tissue mass, as leucine is the most potent amino acid to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, especially for individuals who are unable to exercise but are at risk for muscle loss. Recent research showed that 3 grams of leucine in one meal was as effective as 25 grams of protein at increasing acute muscle protein synthesis.

Supplementation with vitamin D (a key nutrient in musculoskeletal health) of 800-1000 IU was shown to be beneficial in individuals with low vitamin D levels; however, from clinical experience most patients will need anywhere from 4000 to 10,000IU daily to achieve optimal vitamin D status.

Fish oils also play a role in sarcopenia and functional decline. Their anabolic role is due to their anti-inflammatory benefits, improvements of insulin sensitivity, and stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. It takes approximately three months of supplementation to see improvements, with doses of 3 grams or more per day showing significant improvements in functional measures and muscle mass.

Previous research has demonstrated that collagen supplementation can maintain lean body mass and help prevent sarcopenia.

Overall, it is essential to stress the importance of lifestyle and nutritional support. And it is crucial that practitioners understand the underlying physiological factors, and that resistance training should be considered an important treatment option for these individuals as well.

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