What is Sarcopenia?


From the time you are born to around the time you turn 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your 30s, you begin to lose muscle mass and function, a condition known as age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging. In addition, as we age the following factors have a role on overall muscle mass:

  • Age-related reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles
  • A decrease in the concentrations of some hormones
  • A decrease in the body's ability to metabolise protein
  • Inadequate intake of calories especially protein to sustain muscle mass
How common is Sarcopenia?

A recent study1 shows Sarcopenia, which currently affects up to 20 percent of European seniors, may increase 63 percent by 2045. That would mean over 32 million people could be suffering from Sarcopenia by 2045 with women accounting for 66% of cases. This has a serious impact on health care infrastructure, communities and personal wellbeing.

So how can sarcopenia be defined?

There is no global consensus on the definition of Sarcopenia and there is an on-going debate on establishing cut off points for Skeletal Muscle Mass. However in 2010, The European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP) defined sarcopenia as:

  1. Low muscle mass with
  2. Low muscle strength
  3. Low gait speed

The rationale for use of two criteria is: muscle strength does not depend solely on muscle mass, and the relationship between strength and mass is not linear. This is the most applied definition used internationally by researchers and clinicians working within senior health sectors. This is the definition supported by Tanita.

How to assess Sarcopenia?
  • The EWGSOP recommended BIA technology as one of the core methods to effectively measure muscle mass for both research and clinical practice.
  • Appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM) was obtained by adding skeletal muscle mass of both arms and legs. This information is used to develop the skeletal muscle mass index (SMI), which is used for the diagnosis of sarcopenia. This accurate measurement and calculation is the new Sarcopenia Index (SI) feature integrated into the Tanita MC-980MA PLUS Multi-frequency Segmental Body Composition Analyser allowing the healthcare professional or researcher to determine the exact level of sarcopenia, take corrective action and monitor progress.
Good news! Sarcopenia can be prevented or delayed!
  • One of the best ways to treat (and indeed prevent) sarcopenia is exercise. Resistance training or strength training – using exercises that increase muscle strength and endurance with weights or resistance bands – has been shown to have a positive effect on the neuromuscular system, hormone concentrations and protein synthesis.
  • Good nutrition also plays a role. A diet, rich in good quality protein. Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids, with an amino acid called leucine being one of the most effective at stimulating muscle growth. Protein sources that are rich in leucine include lean meat, eggs and dairy.
1 Reference: OC24 The Future Prevalence of Sarcopenia in Europe O. Ethgen, C. Tchokonte, C. Beaudart1, F. Buckinx, J.-Y. Reginster, O. Bruyère Osteoporosis International, Volume 27/ Suppl 1/ 2016