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Nutrition tips every senior should know to keep muscles strong

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Certain nutritional factors help us keep strong muscles with aging.

Loss of muscle mass is normal with aging, but every senior should know there are specific nutritional factors that can help keep muscles strong.

Results of a new review by International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) Nutrition Working Group discusses what we need in our diet with aging to prevent falls and disability that can stem from muscle wasting.

The group looked at studies that were conducted worldwide to identify ways to prevent sarcopenia - gradual loss of muscle mass - that happens as we grow older.

The good news is there are steps to take that can ensure we all stay strong in our senior years, which translates to lower risk of disability from falls, fractures and increased quality of life through independent living.

The most important nutritional factors that help maintain muscle strength with aging include protein, Vitamin D and eating a diet that balances high acid nutrients. You also want to get plenty of B vitamins; especially B12 and folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9.

As we age we need more protein than when we’re younger that is important for muscle strength.

For seniors with no signs of severely impaired kidney function, the study authors recommend 1.0–1.2 g/kg of protein per pound of body weight each day that will also keep bones stronger.

Sources of protein should include lean meats, poultry and fish. Soy products are excellent sources of protein.

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You should also include some dairy in the diet to maintain muscle mass – consider fermented cheeses that have the added benefit of probiotics that keep immune function intact.

Vitamin D
Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Exposure to sunshine is a key factor that helps the body synthesize the hormone to maintain muscle function and mass.

Your doctor can measure your vitamin D level and prescribe supplements if needed. The finding is especially important for seniors who are living in long-term care facilities.

Acid producing foods
Make sure you don’t skimp on fruits and vegetables that have an alkalizing effect on the body. Too many acid producing foods like meats and cereals can have a negative effect on muscle and bone health.

Dr. Ambrish Mithal, co-author of the study and Chair and Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes division at Medanta, New Delhi said in a press release that it’s also important for seniors to combine resistance training with nutrition to reduce frailty, falls and fractures. The study review helps us understand what the ageing body needs to keep muscles strong and functional in our senior years.

Researchers are also looking at hormones that might help restore muscles in elderly people. A 2009 study found boosting insulin levels in the body helps nutrients reach muscles to make them grow.

International Osteoporosis Foundation
January 18, 2013

Related: Efficient muscles do come from eating spinach

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