HMB, essential amino acids, and resistance exercise: Experts review best ways to avoid sarcopenia


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HMB, essential amino acids, and resistance exercise: Experts review best ways to avoid sarcopenia

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As many as 33% of over 50 year olds may suffer from sarcopenia but muscle health could be maintained by a combination of resistance exercise, HMB and essential amino acids, says a new review by an international team of scientists.

Muscle loss is a natural part of aging, and researchers have estimated that, after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscles each year. Strength declines as well, at a rate of 1.5% per year beginning at 50 years and accelerating to 3% after the age of 60.

According to a monograph from the US Dairy Export Council, the direct health care cost attributable to sarcopenia (degenerative muscle loss) were estimated to be $18.5 billion in 2000 in the US, a number that represented about 1.5% of health care expenditures for that year.

Writing in Age and Ageing​, the new review from the EUGMS notes that approximately one out of three adults age 50 and older suffer from sarcopenia.

“Most people think that sarcopenia only impacts people in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, but these findings show that is simply not the case,”​ said Robert H. Miller, Ph.D., Divisional Vice President, R&D, Scientific and Medical Affairs, at Abbott Nutrition, which funded the review through a grant to the EUGMS.

“That's why it's important for adults and physicians to take nutrition seriously and evaluate whether people are receiving the nutrients needed to maintain muscle health as they age.”

To maintain muscle health as you get older, the paper recommends:
* Increasing your daily intake of HMB, protein and essential amino acids (EAAs) to help maintain muscle which can help support physical strength and functionality.
* Incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine, which can improve muscle function.
* More screening needed by doctors to identify sarcopenia. Talk to your physician to discuss other ways to maintain muscle health and prevent sarcopenia.

“The results of nutrition interventions are equivocal due to the low number of studies and heterogeneous study design,” ​wrote the reviewers. “Essential amino acid (EAA) supplements, including about 2.5 g of leucine, and beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (HMB) supplements, show some effects in improving muscle mass and function parameters. Protein supplements have not shown consistent benefits on muscle mass and function.”

Expert panel

Earlier this year an international team of experts called for dietary recommendations for protein intake to be increased​ for healthy older adults to 1.0 to 1.2 g protein/kg body weight/day. Current recommendations in the US are for 56 grams per day of protein for men, and 46 grams per day for women for all age groups (about 0.8 g protein/kg body weight/day).

The expert panel, writing in Clinical Nutrition​(doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.02.011), noted that, “evidence shows that when usual dietary protein intake does not meet increased protein needs of older adults, negative nitrogen balance results and protein levels decline, especially skeletal muscle proteins.”


HMB is a metabolite of the branched chain amino acid leucine and is receiving increasing interest for its potential to reduce the risk of sarcopenia, and also in sports nutrition and the bodybuilding community.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition published a position paper on HMB in 2013 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​ as a nutritional supplement. For more information, please click here​.

Source: Age and Ageing
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu115
“Prevalence of and interventions for sarcopenia in ageing adults: a systematic review. Report of the International Sarcopenia Initiative (EWGSOP and IWGS)”
Authors: A.J. Cruz-Jentoft, F. Landi, S.M. Schneider, et al. 

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