Have you ever noticed that older people have less muscle mass and become frail as they age? Well, research has demonstrated that older people lose muscle mass at a high level beyond a certain age. According to scientists from Orebro University and the University of Nottingham, people start wasting their muscle mass at age 40. Beyond this age, people lose their lean muscle mass at a rate of 10 percent for every 10 years. This specific muscle loss type is Sarcopenia. Consequently, such high rate of muscle mass loss has negative effects on the lives of aging population, including fall-related injuries and reduced metabolism. Ultimately, this leads to a reduced lifespan!
So, what causes such a sharp rate of muscle mass loss as people grow older? Furthermore, is there any correlation between inflammation, lean muscle loss, and longevity?
Role of Inflammation in Muscle Loss
While it is not entirely known what causes muscle mass loss in older people, a prevailing theory has emerged among researchers. As a person ages, production of inflammatory cytokines rises. “Inflammaging”, probably mediated via ceramide inflammatory pathway has been identified as a potential cause of lean muscle mass loss among the older generation. The Rebro University Sports, Physiology and Medicine professor Fawzi Kadi says they have established a possible direct relationship between high levels of inflammation markers in the blood and muscle mass loss.
The C-Reactive Protein
In a research carried out on women between ages 65 and 70, it was found that a higher number of inflammation markers in the blood resulted in the loss of muscle mass. The main inflammation marker in the research was c- reaction protein – CRP. A higher CRP level in the blood, correlates with reduced size of muscle cells in the body. Through laboratory experiments, the researchers could figure the direct effect of CRP on muscle cells. The conclusion was that CRP negatively affects protein synthesis in muscle cells. Effectively, this prevents the creation of proteins in all body cells.
Seeing that muscles are the main protein depots in the body, such hindrance in protein synthesis in muscle cells leads to their reduction. According to Fawzi Kadi, this discovery is of significant importance in the development of preventive measures and drugs to restore healthy muscle mass.
Increasing Longevity by Suppressing Age-Associated Muscle Mass Loss & Frailty
It appears that if we address inflammation in proper time, then chronic diseases associated with old age diminish. Therefore, researchers are looking into different activities and behavioral changes that could reduce muscle inflammation. The hope is that this would delay muscle mass loss and hence postpone chronic old age diseases. This research is a tremendous step towards understanding the effects of “inflammaging” on lean muscle mass loss, and how we could suppress or counteract these deleterious effects. It is an opportunity to increase life longevity by suppressing muscle damage. Finally, we can apply this knowledge already by following a healthy diet plan and regular physical activity.
Britta Wåhlin-Larsson, Daniel J. Wilkinson, Emelie Strandberg, Adrian Hosford-Donovan, Philip J. Atherton, Fawzi Kadi. Mechanistic Links Underlying the Impact of C-Reactive Protein on Muscle Mass in Elderly. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, 2017; 267 DOI: 10.1159/000484679