Preserving muscle mass and strength is important as people age because it is directly related to their ability to limit falls and live independently. New research from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia shows those who avoid inflammatory foods are able to keep their muscle mass and strength longer than those don’t necessarily watch what they eat.
Simple things such as opening a jar or climbing stairs are generally taken for granted until people reach retirement age. And the study authors say when those daily tasks become more difficult, the first place to look is what’s on your fork.
Lead researcher Corey Linton and his colleagues found links between the symptoms of muscle degeneration and the level of inflammatory foods in the diets of their study participants, who were older people living in their own homes.
"Those adults who recorded lower numbers on the dietary inflammatory index had higher muscle mass and strength compared to those with higher numbers on the index," Linton said. "While there is ample research into other factors influencing muscle health, from exercise to genetics, this study examined associations with people's diets, in particular with foods considered inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.
"The findings reinforce Australian nutrition guidelines, which recommend that we all eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit daily and balance our diets as much as possible."
Linton wanted to see how diet impacted the rate of chronic musculoskeletal diseases like sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle strength and function typically seen in older adults.
"Muscle health can be overlooked as a chronic disease but these participants told us how important it is to their daily lives, to enable independence and living in the community," Linton said.
He worked with a group of 200 adults between the ages of 65 and 85 and had them record what foods they ate, which were rated based on their inflammatory effects.
"We then assessed their musculoskeletal health, grip strength, walking and gait, and scanned their bone density and body composition using the university's gold-standard DXA machine," Linton added.
He is hoping what he has learned on the subject helps people better understand what they need to do to maintain their independence, health and quality of life as they age.