Review published in Advances in Nutrition finds increasing dairy may be an effective strategy to combat sarcopenia.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and muscle strength. This progressive muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, can begin as early as our forties, depending on several factors, including diet and physical activity.
Sarcopenia has been linked to an increased risk of physical disability, depression, debilitating falls, and death. With the aging of the population, the incidence of sarcopenia is expected to dramatically rise in the coming decades: more than 200 million cases are projected by 2050. As such, sarcopenia is a major global public health challenge.
Researchers have learned that diet and lifestyle play a major role in both the onset and progression of sarcopenia. Studies have shown, for example, that protein supplementation combined with resistance exercise can reverse the effects of sarcopenia among older adults.
Dairy products, which are good sources of high-quality protein, may be particularly well suited for combating sarcopenia. They are relatively affordable and generally available throughout the world. Moreover, they typically require no cooking or only minimal preparation compared with other protein-rich foods such as lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. This makes dairy a highly practical option for older adults who need to increase their protein intake.
Recently published in Advances in Nutrition, “The Impact of Dairy Protein Intake on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength, and Physical Performance in Middle-Aged to Older Adults with or without Existing Sarcopenia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” examines the current body of evidence in order to assess the impact dairy protein may have on preventing or reversing sarcopenia. In particular, the authors looked at how increased dairy intake affected arm and leg muscle mass and strength.
To conduct their research, the authors performed a thorough search of randomized controlled trial studies. Their search led them to 14 relevant studies involving 1424 participants between the ages of 61 and 81 years. The results of their analysis of these studies indicate that 14 to 40 grams of dairy protein per day led to a “significant favorable effect of dairy protein” on arm and leg muscle mass. Moreover, study participants were generally able to easily tolerate increased dairy intake without any adverse effects.
In conclusion, the authors noted, “Although future high-quality research is required to establish the optimal type of dairy protein, the present systematic review provides evidence of the beneficial effect of dairy protein as a potential nutrition strategy to improve appendicular muscle mass in middle-aged and older adults.”
We are all susceptible to sarcopenia as we grow older. Increased dairy may be an effective strategy to prevent the onset or progression of sarcopenia. You should, however, consult a health care professional before making major dietary changes, as individual needs and tolerances to dairy vary.