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Whey, vitamin D and training builds muscle in the elderly

Losing muscle size and strength is a normal process of aging. On average, muscle loss starts in your 30s and 40s and by age 70, people have lost 20 to 40% of their muscle strength. While some muscle loss with aging is normal, excessive muscle loss results in a condition call sarcopenia. A key counter-measure is adequate protein intake and exercise training.

A recent study indicates that age-associated muscle loss can not only be slowed down, it can be reversed. This project involved 130 elderly men and women with an average age of 80 years who were healthy but had low muscle mass and were diagnosed as sarcopenic. They trained using strengthening and balancing exercises 5 days per week for 12 weeks.

One group was randomized to receive a placebo of maltodextrin and the other group received a supplement protein-based drink consisting of 22 grams whey protein including a total of 4 grams of leucine with several minerals plus 100 IUs of vitamin D.

Training alone in the placebo group resulted in a loss of muscle of 0.7 pounds, whereas the supplement group showed an increase of 3.7 pounds. The increase in muscle was associated with significant improvements in muscle strength and activities of daily living.

These findings indicate that exercise alone is suboptimal at counter-acting loss of muscle mass and function in the elderly. However, the addition of whey protein and vitamin D supplementation was able to reverse the effects of sarcopenia.

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