Scientists develop muscle rejuvenation elixir for older adults

HAMILTON, Ontario — You don’t have to be a young gym rat to down a supplemental shake after a workout. Scientists at McMaster University in Canada have developed a ready-to-drink formula for seniors that, based on their studies, repairs and rejuvenates muscle tissue, especially for those over 65.

In the elderly and the retirement-aged, individuals routinely suffer from sarcopenia, the process of muscle deterioration as one ages. Sarcopenia can cause serious injuries from falls and increase the risk of metabolic disorders. For many older people, this condition often forces them to move to an assisted living or nursing home.

McMaster University researcher Kirsten Bell works with a senior. (Photo credit JD Howell, McMaster University)

“Older people who do little to prevent the progression of sarcopenia drift toward a state where they find activities of daily living, like rising from a chair or ascending stairs very difficult or maybe impossible,” says Stuart Philips, the study’s lead scientist and a professor of kinesiology at McMaster, in a media release.

Philips and his team combined whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, calcium, and fish oil into a drinkable formula and provided it to a group of 25 men at least 70 years old for six weeks. Those participants were ordered not to exercise during the trial period. Another group of 24 men in the same age group was also given a placebo.

After the first six weeks, the researchers continued giving participants the supplement or the placebo, but also put both groups on a progressive, 12-week exercise training program. The regiment mostly consisted of resistance and high-intensity interval training.

The study showed encouraging results. This was the first time that these ingredients, which have all been shown to fight the effects of sarcopenia, have been combined and tested as a supplement together.

The participants who took the supplement showed slowed muscle deterioration and overall strength improvement both before and after the exercise regimen. After the first six weeks, participants gained 700 grams of lean body mass, about the same as these men could expect to lose in a year. When combined with regular exercise twice a week, they had larger strength gains, especially compared to the placebo group.

“The results were more impressive than we expected,” says Kirsten Bell, a PhD student who worked on the study. “Clearly, exercise is a key part of the greatly improved health profile of our subjects, but we are very excited by the enhancements the supplement alone and in combination with exercise was able to give to our participants.”

The researchers hope to test out the supplement on women and other segments that would benefit from a formula that aids in muscle growth.

The study’s results were published July 18, 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE.

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