Sarcopenia and poor nutrition: Significant association found in elderly Chinese population

More protein intake suggested to battle sarcopenia.©iStock

Malnutrition is a prime risk factor for older Chinese adults suffering from sarcopenia, an age-related condition of declining skeletal muscle mass and function. 

In a study published in Geriatrics and Gerontology International, researchers found the prevalence of sarcopenia among Chinese community-dwelling older adults aged 60 to 92 years old was high, and that there was a significant association between sarcopenia and nutritional status.

“Malnutrition and sarcopenia are interrelated in their pathophysiology. A few studies have suggested that malnutrition is a risk factor that causes sarcopenia, owing to reduced muscle protein synthesis,” wrote the researchers from Sichuan University.

“This has led to increasing interest in the influence of lifestyle, particularly the effects of modifiable factors, such as nutritional status on muscle mass and function in older people.”

Researchers investigated 836 (415 men and 421 women) Chinese adults living in the Wuhou district, Sichuan province. The study took note of the elderly participants’ socio-economic status, educational levels, as well as their clinical characteristics.

Of the 836 participants, 88 were diagnosed with sarcopenia – 47 males and 41 females.

A significant association between nutritional status and sarcopenia was found. Among the participants with sarcopenia, 16 (21.3%) had a risk of malnutrition and three (4%) had malnutrition. For both sexes, all of the participants with malnutrition were diagnosed with sarcopenia.

In men, 37% of participants with the risk of malnutrition had sarcopenia, this rate was 17.6% in women. For both sexes, the prevalence of sarcopenia were significantly lower among those with normal nutrition status.

More sarcopenia-free participants also engaged in high (219 males, 275 females) and moderate (141 males 98 females) physical activities.

More exercise better 

“The prevalence of sarcopenia tended to decline with increasing levels of physical activity for both sexes, being more pronounced in men than in women,” researchers noted.

“Physical activity is considered as a main anabolic stimulus for muscle protein synthesis. Some cross-sectional and prospective studies have shown that high levels of physical activity have positive effects on muscle mass or strength, and low levels are related to sarcopenia.”

The study also revealed that liver disease were more prevalent in female sarcopenia patients, with history of cardiac diseases, hypertension, and stroke ­­­­more common in men with sarcopenia.

Females who do not drink alcohol were common in the sarcopenia group. There were also more educated participants not suffering from sarcopenia.

“Nutritional status and sarcopenia are of clinical relevance and importance, and are interrelated in their pathophysiology. There is growing evidence that nutritional factors, such as inadequate intake of protein, energy, certain micronutrients, mal-absorption and drug-induced anorexia, contribute to the incidence of sarcopenia,” the study said.

“Nutritional interventions, such as protein or energy intake, could make an important contribution to preventing sarcopenia.”


Source: Geriatrics and Gerontology International

DOI: 10.1111/ggi.13001

“Association between sarcopenia and nutritional status and physical activity among community-dwelling Chinese adults aged 60 years and older”

Authors: Shan Hai, Li Cao, et al.

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