Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The phenomenon of aging is a fascinating area of scientific pursuit as living young is the cherished dream of majority of the population all over the world. There are many special foods, ingredients, therapy, medicines, supplements etc in the market claiming to retard or stop the biological process of aging and to maintain good quality of life. During aging almost all body functions are slowed down and adjusting to the new reality is often traumatic for many. Geriatric foods, marketed by many manufacturers, are often not based on scientific evidence but by logic and common sense, creating uncertainties regarding their efficacy universally. One of the areas currently under focused attention is the changes that take place in the muscle function as one ages and there is a sustained interest amongst industry as well as academic researchers in unraveling the dynamics of these changes hoping to find the ultimate elixir which can control the progress of aging and its consequences.

"Why muscles wither with age is captivating a growing number of scientists, drug and food companies, let alone aging baby boomers who, despite having spent years sweating in the gym, are confronting the body's natural loss of muscle tone over time. Comparisons between age groups underline the muscle disparity: An 80-year-old might have 30 percent less muscle mass than a 20-year-old. And strength declines even more than the mass. With interest high among the aging, the market potential for maintaining and rebuilding muscle mass seems boundless. Drug companies already are trying to develop drugs that can forestall their weakening without notoriety of anabolic steroids. Weight-lifting records for 60-year-old men are 30 percent lower than for 30-year-olds; for women the drop-off is 50 percent. Food giants like Nestlé and Danone are exploring nutritional products with the same objective. In addition, geriatric specialists, in particular, are now trying to establish the age-related loss of muscles as a medical condition under the name sarcopenia, from the Greek for loss of flesh. Simply put, sarcopenia is to muscle what osteoporosis is to bone. "In the future, sarcopenia will be known as much as osteoporosis is now," said Dr. Bruno Vellas, president of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics. Researchers involved in the effort say doctors and patients need to be more aware that muscle deterioration is a major reason the elderly lose mobility and cannot live independently. "A doctor sees old people who are shrinking and getting weak, but there is no medical terminology that's been created and made uniform to allow the doctor to make a diagnosis, look at possible causes, and make a treatment plan," said Dr. Stephanie A. Studenski, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh".

These efforts take into consideration the fact that once muscle degeneration and bone density changes can be managed the quality of life can be much better than otherwise. Probably this consideration is the driving force for some of the industry majors to enter this gamble hoping to strike "gold" in a few years' time. The nutritional needs of geriatric population which differ marginally from younger adults are not based on the understanding of the muscle loss and may call for reconsideration once the on-going studies bring out a better understanding of such changes. Current guidelines advocate a lesser consumption of calories and more intake of Vitamin D, B6 and calcium, compared to younger population. Foods and supplements evolved based on a better understanding of regeneration of muscles in older people and capable of overcoming the muscle loss phenomenon, are likely to be a big hit with geriatric population world over.


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