Tuesday 2 July 2019

New findings on the role of diet to improve muscle health

Researchers from the AGE Research Group have produced a review of existing literature on the broader effects of diet on muscle ageing, which has been published in the journal, Nutrients. The team are currently in the process of analysing data from their MIlkMAN study (Milk Intervention Muscle AgeiNg), funded by the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, focused specifically on the role of milk in improving muscle health.

Diet and sarcopenia

A growing body of evidence, that links nutrition to muscle health in older age suggests that making dietary changes to ensure that food and nutrient intakes are adequate, has the potential to prevent or delay age-related losses in muscle mass and function. Nutritional interventions could therefore be central to future strategies to reduce sarcopenia (loss of muscle strength and mass, poorer physical function), although further research is needed to define the type of dietary changes that would be most effective.

Research into the role of diet as an influence on sarcopenia is a focus of ongoing work being carried out by the AGE Research Group, within the cross-cutting Ageing Syndromes theme, both led by Professor Avan Sayer at the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre.

The MIlkMAN Study

Dr Antoneta Granic and Dr Terry Aspray from the AGE Research Group are leading the MIlkMAN study (Milk Intervention Muscle AgeiNg), which is funded by the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. The main aim of this new study is to find out whether drinking whole milk (3.6% fat) or skimmed milk (0.3% fat) following resistance exercise training is an achievable and acceptable intervention for older people. Additional aims are to examine whether the intervention affects measures of muscle function and quality of life.

The team worked with 30 dedicated volunteer participants from the community who took part in an exercise programme twice a week for a period of six weeks; each resistance exercise training session was followed by consumption of one of three different types of drink: whole milk, skimmed milk or a non-protein fat-free drink. Data collection for the study was completed successfully last month and data entry and analysis are currently underway.

Dr Antoneta Granic comments: “We want to be able to find out more about the benefits of protein for ageing muscle when consumed not as a supplement, but within protein-rich whole foods that are readily available to older adults. We’re hoping to determine if whole milk, which is a source of high-quality proteins, minerals, vitamins, and bioactive fats, in combination with resistance exercise, may provide an effective food-based intervention to improve muscle health in older people”.

Dietary patterns and sarcopenia

With MIlkMAN underway, the AGE Research Group has recently carried out a literature review to assess the effects of different dietary patterns on muscle health. Dietary patterns research in muscle ageing is quite new — it enables researchers to look at the effects of the whole diet on muscle health, and to take account of the combined effects of different components of foods, as well as interactions between them.

Dr Granic adds: “Two main approaches have been used to look at dietary patterns in relation to muscle health, either adherence to pre-defined diets or using data-driven approaches using statistical tools that describe patterns of dietary behaviour in a population. Both approaches recognise the importance of the whole diet and the potential for combined effects of foods and nutrients. In this review we aimed to understand current evidence from observational studies looking at dietary patterns with ‘myoprotective’ properties — diets that are associated with better muscle health and function in older adults.”

The result is a review entitled, ‘Dietary Patterns, Skeletal Muscle Health, and Sarcopenia in Older Adults’ published recently in Nutrients. The review discusses the most recent evidence on the influence of dietary patterns on muscle health and sarcopenia and the potential mechanisms of ‘myoprotective’ diets, such as the Mediterranean diet.

Dietary patterns, skeletal muscle health and sarcopenia in older adults‘, Nutrients 2019