Sarcopenia is the deterioration of muscle mass and strength that is a normal part of aging, which is often the cause of falls and other problems seniors are forced to cope with as they age. New research suggests that there might be an easy way to slow down sarcopenia; protein drinks which are not so different from what body builders drink.

Stuart Philips, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, and a member of the McMaster Institute of Research on Aging, conducted a  study to look into the effect drinking protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplements might have on sarcopenia.

It has been known for some time that several isolated nutritional ingredients have a positive effect on muscle deterioration, but this study looked specifically at the effect combining these supplements had on muscles.

Professor Phillips combined whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, calcium and fish oil into a drink and fed it to a group of men aged 70 and above for six weeks. Another group of similar men took a placebo instead. Both groups were fed the supplement or placebo for six weeks, without exercise in their routine. At the end of six week the groups continued to take the supplements, but a 12-week exercise program was implemented as well.

The results were impressive, according to a PhD student who worked on the study.

The findings showed distinct improvements in muscle health and overall strength for those taking the supplements, both before and after exercise was added. There was a gain in muscle mass of about 700 grams during the first six weeks for those taking the supplement, which is the same amount of muscle mass they would have lost in a year under normal conditions. During the 12-week, twice-a-week exercise regimen the subjects reported greater muscle strength.

“Clearly, exercise is a key part of the greatly improved health profile of our subjects,” said the PhD student, “but we are very excited by the enhancements the supplement alone and in combination with exercise was able to give to our participants.”

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