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How do healthy aging and muscle health work?

Grandma and grandson on swing

Sarcopenia is an age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength and an important contributor to frailty. It is associated with an increased risk of falls and bone fractures leading to loss of independence and reduced quality of life in the older population, as well as increasing health care burden.

Nestlé Research scientists in partnership with the EpiGen Global Research Consortium as part of a multi-centre study called MEMOSA (Multi-Ethnic Molecular determinants of human Sarcopenia) gained new insights into the molecular mechanisms leading to sarcopenia. These results were published today in Nature Communications.

Researchers compared muscle tissue from groups of older men with sarcopenia across different geographies and looked for variabilities that may explain why some people develop sarcopenia and some people do not.

"The causes of sarcopenia are multifactorial," said Eugenia Migliavacca, a Nestlé Research scientist and first author of the study. "Understanding the over-arching mechanisms responsible for the loss of muscle mass and strength is essential to design interventions that maintain mobility in older people".

Irrespective of geographies, the muscle from individuals suffering of sarcopenia shows a reduced activity of the cellular machinery producing energy, which is critical to maintaining muscle mass and strength. The dysfunction of mitochondria, the cellular organelle powering muscle fibers by converting food into energy, is the strongest influencing factor leading to sarcopenia. The study also shows that people with sarcopenia have reduced level of NAD+, a molecule critical for mitochondrial function, acting as a sensor of cellular energy levels and regulating energy production.

Mitochondria play a key role in maintaining our health during aging", said Jerome Feige, Head of Musculo-Skeletal Health at Nestlé Research and one of the senior authors of the study. “We are investigating a range of nutrients derived from food that support mitochondrial function by restoring the cellular processes that decline during aging. Our new results demonstrate the central role of mitochondria in sarcopenia and open new opportunities for nutritional strategies to enhance muscle function by preventing aging at the cellular level."

Nestlé is leading a number of complementary research programs aimed at the development of novel nutritional strategies to promote healthy muscle aging.

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