One of the concerning issues faced by people over-age 50 is the gradual loss of muscle mass that starts to speed up past this age. The big medical term for this muscle mass loss is sarcopenia and it only gets worse if you don’t take measures to fight it. One of these measures is a naturally occurring acid that I’d like to tell you about.
Causes of Muscle Loss
Did you know that people over the age of 30 begin to lose muscle mass? They can lose between 3% and 5% per decade. It speeds up after age 50 and people can lose between 0.5 and 1% muscle mass per year! That’s right.
The fact is, if you do nothing to stop it, muscle mass loss can contribute to increasing frailty, as you get older. It also contributes to the loss of bone densityand strength – increasing risk for fractures – as bones need muscle mass to stimulate their growth.
There are several reasons why muscle mass loss starts to speed up after age 45 that include:
1. Inflammation. By the age of 45, many people have chronic inflammation widespread throughout their body in varying degrees. The older you get, the more inflammation you can have. It can affect muscles and joints, making them achy and stiff.
2. Inactivity. As people get older, they frequently start to become less active and spend a lot of their time sitting especially if they have a desk job. Muscles start to weaken and shrink.
3. Lack of protein. Low protein intake can occur as people get older. Also, poor digestion and absorption of nutrients can contribute to low protein absorption.
4. Decrease in hormones. After age 45, muscle-building hormones start to decrease in both men and women, namely testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin growth factor.
Take heart though, as there are several things you can do to fight debilitating muscle loss.
Ursolic Acid – Fat Loss, Muscle Gain
Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has given us an incredible natural acid found most abundantly in apple peels (also in smaller quantities in vegetables and rosemary). It’s called ursolic acid and it helps build muscle mass and promote fat loss. It also helps decrease inflammation throughout the body as it acts similarly to the corticosteroid dexamethasone.
A recent study out of the University of Iowa has shown that ursolic acid boosts muscle growth up to 15% in lab animals and had reduced body fat by more than one-half. It also reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and decreased harmful blood fatty acids which can lead to arterial plaques. Ursolic acid works, researchers say, by reprogramming genes that cause muscle wasting and fat gain.
The researchers concluded that ursolic acid could be of great use to slow down/prevent age-related muscle loss. It could be an invaluable aid in reducing frailty, and it’s complications, in older people. In addition, ursolic acid may be useful in treating obesity-related diabetes and middle-age fat gain. Studies are underway to clinically study the effects in humans but body builders have been using ursolic acid for several years now.
If you want to prevent muscle mass loss, and promote fat loss, here is what I recommend:
1. Eat more protein. Though some researchers disagree on how much protein you need every day, it’s my opinion that people do best between 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to maintain good muscle strength. That means if you weigh 160 lbs, you should be eating anywhere from 80-160 grams of protein a day.
2. Resistance training. Free weights, kettlebells, or weight machines are all forms of resistance training that can help build muscle mass. Do 3-4 times a week, 20-30 minutes.
3. Consider hormone enhancement. There are many natural hormone precursors like DHEA and herbal products that can help restore falling hormone levels. Ask your doctor about this.
4. Ursolic acid supplements. If you want to try ursolic acid, there are several manufacturers on the market. Many come in different dosages, most commonly 50 mg, but I don’t recommend going over 300 mg a day to start.
Preserving muscle loss and fat gain, are important issues that I frequently counsel my patients on. Following the recommendations above can help you stay at a healthier weight with better muscle volume. Taking ursolic acid may also just be the edge to further help prevent muscle loss as you get older.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.