April 30, 2014

A recent study conducted by Deakin University, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrates that eating lean red meat and participating in strength training could be the key to keeping the body in peak condition as we age. (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/99/4/899.abstract)

One of the most debilitating aspects of ageing is the loss of muscle strength. On a day-to-day level, this means an activity as simple as getting out of a chair is difficult.  In the long term, reduced muscle strength increases the risk of falls, and this combined with reduced bone density can lead to breaks and long periods of recovery.

The background notes of the study state that “Physical inactivity, inadequate dietary protein, and low-grade systemic inflammation contribute to age-related muscle loss, impaired function, and disability.”

The burden this places on our health care system is undeniable, and with people living longer than in the past, the health care burden also continues for longer. Perhaps more important, though, is the impact this has on the individual. It sounds desirable to live a longer life, but if that longer life is not a happy, healthy, independent one, who is really benefiting?

It stands to reason, then, that maintaining or improving muscle strength and reducing inflammation can help older adults maintain independence for longer and reduce the incidence of falls and related problems. Quality and enjoyment of life can be dramatically improved.

Interestingly, it appears that it’s never too late. The Deakin study conducted a trial on 100 women aged 60 – 90 over four months. Those in the group which combined strength training with increased intake of lean red meat had a greater increase in muscle mass and a reduction in pro-inflammatory markers than those in the exercise-only group.

According to Deakin’s Professor of Exercise and Ageing, Robin Daly, “this protein/exercise combination could provide the greatest benefits in terms of ensuring that older adults can live independently and relatively disease and disability free into old age.”

Healthy Inspirations has long advocated the weight loss benefits of combining healthy eating, including some protein in each meal and snack, and strength training exercise, but it now appears that the combination will help older women improve their strength and quality of life as well.