Sarcopenia, the Muscle Wasting Disease

The loss of muscle mass as one ages is a major risk to one’s health. Muscle mass is required for strength, mobility, bone density, immunity, temperature regulation, blood sugar control, and balance. Over half of seniors have some degree of significant muscle loss. Most seniors are surprised at the medical impact of losing muscle mass and the connection to failing health and loss of independence.

The medical term for the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength is age-related sarcopenia. Sarcopenia comes from the Greek word meaning “poverty of the flesh.

Sarcopenia increases the risk of mobility disorders, increased risk of falls and fractures, impaired ability to perform activities of daily living, disabilities, loss of independence, and increased risk of death.

The number one concern when it comes to nutrition is the lack of protein intake by seniors. This is particularly true of those in nursing homes, hospitalized, or those who live alone. Studies show that approximately 25 percent of seniors do not consume enough protein. Below is a list of food rich in protein than you can integrate into your diet.

Protein rich foods:

  • Chicken (4 ounces) 35 grams
  • Turkey (4 ounces) 34.09 grams
  • Tuna (4 ounces) 33.99 grams (Note: use low mercury tuna only)
  • Beef  (4 ounces) 32.33 grams (Note: use lean, organic only)
  • Salmon (4 ounces) 30.97 grams
  • Lamb (4 ounces) 30.15 grams
  • Soybeans (1 cup) 28.63 grams (Note: fermented soy products are best)
  • Lentils (1 cup) 17.86 grams
  • Dried peas (1 cup) 16.35 grams
  • Kidney beans  (1 cup) 15.35 grams
  • Pumpkin seeds (quarter cup) 9.75 grams
  • Eggs (1 medium) 6.92 grams
  • Spinach (1 cup) 5.35 grams
  • Mustard Greens (1 cup) 3.16 grams
  • Asparagus (1cup) 2.95 grams

For reasons not well understood, studies show that sarcopenia is much more common in white men and women as compared to the black population. As well, there is a gender difference with women at higher risk than men. This is likely due to the fact they generally have less lean muscle mass to begin with before entering menopause. Then with hormonal changes they are more susceptible to muscle loss. However, women’s muscle mass does respond quickly to hormonal therapy.

You should also be aware that having a blood pH that tends toward an acidic environment promotes muscle weakness and breakdown. Foods that have an alkalinizing effect such as a variety of fruits and vegetables are most important. Juicing and blending are ways to enhance your alkaline rich intake of nutrients.

A study reported in the American Journal of Cardiology showed daily amino acid supplements led to significant increases in muscle after six months and additional muscle after 16 months.

As well, creatine is a supplement that is composed of three amino acids known as arginine, glycine, and methionine. A 2012 study found creatine supplementation combined with resistance training improved muscle strength, fat-free mass and muscle mass in older women compared to those taking a placebo plus exercise.

The other important nutrients that contribute to muscle mass include vitamin D and magnesium. We test patients levels of these nutrients and amino acids at The Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.