A comprehensive review of sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle strength and mass, is published today in the Lancet.
The review, co-authored by Professor Avan Aihie Sayer, Director of the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Professor of Geriatric Medicine, is the first Lancet Seminar on Sarcopenia and provides a clinically focused cutting-edge review of the condition which is increasingly recognised not only as an age-related problem, but one associated with a range of long-term conditions. It also outlines how experimental medicine is focusing on translating the understanding of the condition into advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
A progressive and generalised skeletal muscle disorder involving the accelerated loss of muscle function and mass, sarcopenia is associated with adverse outcomes including falls, longer stays in hospital, a higher chance of needing to move into a care home, and earlier death.
Derived from the Greek ‘poverty of flesh’, it was first described in the 1980s but it wasn’t until 2016 that is was recognised as an independent condition in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), a medical classification list developed by the World Health Organization.
While it commonly occurs as an age-related process in older people, research has shown it is influenced not only by current risk factors but also by genetic and lifestyle factors operating across the life course.
Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
The newly published Lancet Seminar, co-authored with Dr Alfonso J. Cruz-Jentoft who is Chair of the European Working Group of Sarcopenia in Older People, describes how several consensus definitions of sarcopenia have advanced the field in the last decade.
It goes on to describe how experimental medicine is now focusing on translating greater understanding of the condition into advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention with particular interest in the development of biomarkers, nutritional interventions, and drugs to augment the beneficial effects of resistance exercise.
There is also interest in designing effective preventive strategies across the life course and the review suggest that the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sarcopenia will soon become part of routine clinical practice, something that is already being implemented in clinics at Newcastle Hospitals where Professor Sayer is an Honorary Consultant in Older People’s Medicine.
Professor Sayer leads the NIHR Newcastle BRC, a partnership between Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University, where the vision is improving lives through world-class research in ageing and long-term conditions and experimental medicine expertise in individual long-term conditions is harnessed to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ageing syndromes such as sarcopenia, frailty and multimorbidity.
Professor Sayer commented:
“Sarcopenia is increasingly being seen as a priority for research funders, healthcare providers and people experiencing loss of muscle strength themselves, so this Lancet Seminar is very timely. At the NIHR Newcastle BRC we are leading the way in sarcopenia research through setting up cohorts of older people studied in depth who will help us work out why sarcopenia happens and what we need to do to develop effective treatments. We also believe that a life course approach to prevention is important because it extends the opportunity for intervention from later life to mid-life and earlier, when lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity and optimising diet may be easier to put into place.”
Alfonso J. Cruz-Jentoft, Avan A. Sayer