What Causes Loss of Muscle Mass

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What causes loss of muscle mass?

Sarcopenia is the medical term used to describe loss of muscle mass. It means ‘lack of flesh’ in Greek.

There are many reasons for loss of muscle mass.

Loss of muscle mass can be attributed to aging and inactivity as well as muscle and nerve diseases that lead to muscle atrophy such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. These diseases will not be discussed here.

Why is loss of muscle mass important?

Muscle strength plays an important role in determining risk for falls, which result in fractures and other injuries. While bone loss has long been recognized as an inevitable consequence of aging, the skeletal muscle mass loss that occurs with advancing age has recently received increased attention.

Why does aging lead to loss of muscle mass?

One word, sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is a condition that causes muscle mass to slowly shrink with age. It is estimated that we lose about 1% of muscle mass per year after age 40. This muscle mass loss will increase in the sixth and seventh decades.

Sarcopenia is estimated to affect 10% of adults over the age of 50.

Muscles are constantly repairing themselves. They go through a cycle including growth, injury and repair. For some reason with sarcopenia, the muscles are not as efficient at repairing themselves. This will lead to loss of muscle mass. The reason for this is unknown.

Why is there a loss of muscle mass?

Inactivity
One of the most common is physical inactivity. Obviously, for those who have susutained an injury there is no choice  but to be immobilized but many of us choose to be sedentary. We work at a desk and watch too much television, this leads to a sedentary life style. This becomes a problem because  laziness breeds more laziness, the thought of actually exercising makes you tired.
Dieting

Dieting can lead to loss of muscle mass. We diet because we want to lose weight. Unfortunately, the loss of weight will also lead to loss of muscle mass.

Inflammation and injury

Elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance may play an important role in the loss of muscle mass and development of sarcopenia.

Injury such as trauma, burns and surgery can lead to loss of muscle mass. One study showed that a rise in inflammatory markers increased risk of loss of muscle mass.

Growth factors including growth hormone, testosterone and insulin-like growth factor. play a role in loss of muscle mass.

One article suggested that hormones may play a role in muscle mass loss. “Multiple factors appear to be involved in the development of sarcopenia including the loss of muscle mass and muscle fibers, increased inflammation, altered hormonal levels, poor nutritional status, and altered renin–angiotensin system.”

What can we do to help prevent loss of muscle mass?

loss of muscle massEat Protein

Think about your diet ot the typical American diet, it is loaded with carbs. Carbs are necessary and important for energy but protein is important for building muscle.

An article published in the journal of Nutrition showed that participants who ate protein throughout the day including breakfast had a 25% greater increase in protein muscle synthesis. This is step is needed for muscle building.

How much protein should we be eating?

An article in the journal of Clinical Medical Research suggests that we should be eating, “As optimal dietary protein intake, 1.0 – 1.2 g/kg (body weight)/day with an optimal repartition over each daily meal or 25 – 30 g of high quality protein per meal were recommended to prevent sarcopenia, which was supported by some observational studies.”

I did an article on protein supplements Branched Fatty Acids Vs Whey Protein

Try to eat foods that can help decrease inflammation such as vegetables and avoid processed foods sull of sugar that can increase inflammation.

Resistance training

Performing exercises such as weightlifting or performing bodyweight exercises such as planks, push-ups, squats and lunges will help build up muscle. There are some apps which are good for home exercises, I did a review on some of them.

Aerobic exercises and walking can increase muscle mass but resistance training at least twice a week is strongly recommended.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Without question, exercise is the most powerful intervention to address muscle loss, whether it occurs in the context of advancing age or debilitating chronic or acute diseases,” explains Nathan K. LeBrasseur, Ph.D., of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help prevent loss of muscle mass

An article in the American Journal of Nutrition suggested that “Omega-3 fatty acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis in older adults and may be useful for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia. This trial was registered at clinical trials.gov as NCT00794079.”
Creatine

Creatine phosphate supplement helps make a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions.

Creatine supplement along with exercise can help build muscle

An article of Medical Science Sports Exercise showed, “Retention of muscle mass and strength is integral to healthy aging. The results from this meta-analysis are encouraging in supporting a role for Creatine supplementation during resistance training in healthful aging by enhancing muscle mass gain, strength, and functional performance over RT alone; however, the limited number of studies indicates further work is needed.”

Vitamin D
Low vitamin D levels have been associated with loss of muscle mass.

It is unclear whether vitamin D supplements can help prevent or improve loss of muscle mass. “It is still unclear if and to what extent treatment modalities, such as dose, mode of administration and duration of supplementation, could influence treatment outcome.”

Medications to help reduce loss of muscle mass are being investigated.

Urocortin II 

Urocortin II has been shown to help the pituitary stimulate the release of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from your pituitary gland.

Hormone replacement therapy, testosterone supplements and growth hormone have all been used to decrease muscle loss.

Medications come with side effects. It is best to help prevent the loss of muscle mass by eating a well balanced meal and exercising which includes strength training. This is a safer way to go.

Loss of muscle mass and weight gain

As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.

What do you do to help prevent loss of muscle mass?

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 172 Articles

I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.

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