Muscle breakdown is accelerated by immobility and illness, contributing to an age-related muscle disease known as sarcopenia.
Research has found that from as early as 40 years of age, adults may lose up to 8% of their muscle mass per decade, which could also affect their mobility, like climbing up the stairs or standing up from a chair. Once you hit the age of 70, that rate of loss can double.
Currently in Australia, up to 1 in 5 Australians over the age of 60 years live with different stages of sarcopenia.
Muscles consistently support our mobility, balance, posture, strength, bones, joints, and energy. As we age, muscle breakdown can happen faster than the muscle repairing and rebuilding process. To regain the balance between muscle breakdown and muscle repair in adults aged 60 years and over, research has shown that getting ahead of muscle loss before it begins is the key to prolonged mobility, maintaining independence, and ensuring a higher quality of life.
“When you look through the evidence, sarcopenia or muscle loss is linked to illness, injury or chronic disease – this goes from falls and fractures to type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Robin Daly, Immediate-Past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Sarcopenia and Frailty Research (ANZSSFR) and Chair in Exercise and Ageing at Deakin University.
“For some people, especially older adults and those that are hospitalised, we know that if a certain amount of muscle is lost, it can increase your risk of infection, decreasing your immune response and increase your risk of disease. In addition, there is evidence showing that muscle loss reduces life expectancy.’’
Physical activity such as resistance or muscle-strengthening training, combined with sufficient nutrients, has been proven to combat muscle mass loss. This is where the benefits of a little-known nutrient called ‘HMB’ can help. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate, or ‘HMB’, is naturally produced in the body. It supports muscle health by helping to build muscle, while at the same time protecting it from breaking down.
HMB isn’t new – it’s been studied for more than 25 years in over 90 clinical studies, including more than 20 studies in healthy or hospitalised adults along with other nutrients. Although HMB can be found naturally in foods like avocado, grapefruit, and cauliflower, it is present in minimal amounts in these foods.
Professor Gustavo Duque, Chair of Medicine and Director at the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS), The University of Melbourne and Western Health explains that consuming adequate levels of HMB from diet alone is not an easy task.
“A person would need to eat around 6,000 avocados to receive the 3g of HMB required for muscle health benefits. An impossible feat. Nutritional supplements including nutritional drinks enriched with HMB are required to assist HMB intake in aiding muscle regeneration and repair.”
How to Increase your HMB Intake
Increasing your HMB intake can effectively strengthen your muscles by slowing their breakdown and accelerating their repair.
“It is difficult to obtain enough HMB to support muscle health through diet alone,” said Fransiska Ingrati, medical affairs manager at Abbott in Australia.
“That’s why Abbott develops science-based nutrition with HMB that aids in muscle growth and repair to help keep adult bodies strong and active. Our goal is to help people stay healthy and we believe that with good nutrition, people can live their best life and well into their golden years.”
Those interested in learning more are encouraged to speak with a healthcare provider or a dietitian for more information about increasing their HMB intake.