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We have all seen it, the age-related loss of muscle mass and increasing frailty that generally accompanies advancing age. Recently the World Health Organization classified this age-related muscle wastage as a disease and thus sarcopenia entered official usage to describe it. There are a number of potential causes of sarcopenia and new research suggests that there is a nutritional link between the microbiota and development of the condition.

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is the condition that causes the familiar, age-related loss of muscle strength and mass in older people, and it leads to ever-increasing frailty. Frailty makes everyday tasks difficult, affects balance, and can lead to falls, which can be very dangerous for older people.

How sarcopenia develops is a more complex matter; there are a number of possible causes for sarcopenia, including reduced protein intake, sedentary lifestyle, chronic inflammation that inhibits cell function and tissue repair, reduced stem cell activity from the same inflammatory signals, mitochondrial dysfunction, and reduced oxygenation resulting from deteriorating blood vessels.

These are only some of the possible factors involved in the onset of sarcopenia, and more research is needed to determine the exact cause, although it currently appears that reduced stem cell activity is a strong contender.

Could the gut influence sarcopenia?

A new study has researchers considering that age-related changes of the gut microbiota may possibly contribute to sarcopenia[1]. In recent years, the role of the gut microbiota in aging has increasingly become the focus of research. In this paper, the researchers focus on age-related changes in these populations of gut microbes in an attempt to explain the link between nutrition and sarcopenia.

There is certainly ample evidence to suggest that changes in the gut microbiota can promote inflammation and contribute to the smoldering chronic inflammation known as “inflammaging”. It may be the case that changes to the microbiota promote inflammation, which inhibits stem cell activity and thus provokes sarcopenia; we know that inflammatory signals do inhibit stem cells, so this is certainly plausible.

Conclusion

The interaction of the gut microbiota with the aging processes and other metabolic systems is intriguing. However, the interplay of the gut microbiome with our biology is highly complex, so it remains to be seen if anything useful will come from this particular line of research in the near future.

As ever, our interest lies in research that focuses on the root causes of aging and has the potential to prevent sarcopenia at its root. A repair-based approach to aging, as proposed in the Hallmarks of Aging and the SENS model, is what we believe could lead to the most significant increases of healthy longevity, making these approaches the ones we consider most worthy of development and funding. That said, research such as this is still intriguing and adds to our scientific understanding, and that is a never a bad thing.

Literature

[1] Ticinesi, A., Lauretani, F., Milani, C., Nouvenne, A., Tana, C., Del Rio, D., … & Meschi, T. (2017). Aging Gut Microbiota at the Cross-Road between Nutrition, Physical Frailty, and Sarcopenia: Is There a Gut–Muscle Axis?. Nutrients, 9(12), 1303.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, and, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.
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