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Sarcopenia—A widespread concern among the elderly and others holds potential growth for the natural ingredient marketplace

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Sarcopenia Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Although it is primarily a disease of the elderly, its development may be associated with conditions that are not exclusively seen in older persons, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

“The loss of muscle mass over time, known as sarcopenia, remains inevitable as we age, but the ways in which manufacturers are combating it is evolving,” said Maggie McNamara, marketing director with California-based Gencor. “After middle age, adults lose 3 percent of their muscle strength every year on average. This limits their ability to perform many routine activities. Unfortunately, sarcopenia also shortens life expectancy in those it affects, compared to individuals with normal muscle strength.”

Sarcopenia is caused by an imbalance between signals for muscle cell growth and signals for muscle cell teardown, McNamara added. “Cell growth processes are called anabolism, and cell teardown processes are called catabolism. For example, growth hormones act with protein-destroying enzymes to keep muscles steady through a cycle of growth, stress, injury, destruction and then healing. This cycle is always occurring. When things are in balance, muscles maintain their strength. However, during the aging process, the body becomes resistant to the normal growth signals, tipping the balance toward catabolism and muscle loss.”

She added that in addition to aging, sarcopenia is accelerated by low physical activity, insufficient calorie and protein intake, inflammation and stress, therefore, exercise is the most effective way to reverse sarcopenia. “Resistance training works best to increase muscle mass and strength, however, a combination of a planned exercise program in addition to supplementation will be more effective. If you’re deficient in calories, protein, or certain vitamins and minerals, you may have a higher risk of muscle loss. While protein is always critical for muscle health (since it provides the building blocks for gaining muscle), addressing other areas, such as dropping testosterone levels to address muscle mass, has also gained significant momentum.”

Rick Kozlenko, DPM, MPH, PhD, science and functional food advisory with California-based GCI Nutrients, said that while sarcopenia is widespread, there appears to be very little in the ingredient market specifically and directly targeting this condition, which is often associated with aging, lack of activity particularly immobilization, and often associated and overlaps with osteoporosis, which by far had the most popular dietary supplement profile.

“Most interesting,” he added, “and seemingly counterintuitive, there are forms of sarcopenia associated with obesity and high BMI (body mass index). The underlying theory is that a similar dynamic that can exist with certain etiologies of osteoporosis has its similar and perhaps simultaneous basis with systematic, chronic inflammation. Obesity and high white fat in one’s body composition have demonstrable markers of inflammation as is considered a broad-reaching endocrinopathy in itself.”

Ingredients and Sarcopenia

The physical consequences of sarcopenia put a person at risk for falls, fractures and hospitalization, noted Angie Rimel, marketing coordinator with Iowa-based GELITA.

With that in mind, the company has developed BODYBALANCE, an ingredient designed to maintain and increase muscle mass. “These highly specialized collagen peptides have been shown to contribute to stronger muscles,” Rimel said. “Combined with resistance training, significant improvements can be made. BODYBALANCE is an amazing ingredient suitable for those who want to stay mobile and physically active at an advanced age or anyone looking for a natural way to get more out of their training.”

Although designed for sports nutrition, SEPIFIT Protect by New Jersey-based Seppic Inc., addresses muscle cells. It is an active ingredient for “everyday” sports nutrition as it offers a complete muscle cells protection to help people better live their daily training, said Sebastien Merchet the company’s nutrition sales and marketing manager, North America. “Consumers are also more and more interested in the quality of the ingredients present in food supplements.”

Merchet noted that SEPIFIT Protect is produced in France, according to HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) guidelines and it is vegan, GMO (genetically modifed organism) free, as well as free from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) substances and controversial substances. SEPIFIT Protect is supported by human clinical studies and is easy to formulate in tablets, hard capsules and powders for drinks and shakes, to meet the consumer demand for practical and innovative food supplements formats.

While a number of isolated nutritional ingredients have been shown to fight sarcopenia (whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3s), McNamara pointed out that manufacturers need to differentiate due to an increasingly knowledgeable consumer-base. Thus, manufacturers need to scientifically research their ingredients, and develop innovative dosage and delivery systems to increase the effectiveness of their ingredients, and ultimately, to start implementing innovative ingredients, such as Gencor’s Testofen, a branded fenugreek extract that offer multiple benefits in order to effectively combat sarcopenia.

She explained that as men pass the age of 30, their levels of testosterone begin to decrease. “The drop in hormones contribute to a dramatic loss in muscle mass. To build muscle, enough stress needs to be placed on the body in order to begin muscle-protein synthesis—a foundational building block of muscle mass. Testosterone also increases levels of hormones like IGF-1. These anabolic hormones play a significant role in promoting muscle-protein synthesis, which leads to more mass. By boosting testosterone levels, one can effectively stimulate the growth factors required to increase overall muscle size and strength.”

Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated a correlation between bioavailable testosterone concentrations and fat-free mass and muscle strength. Testosterone replacement in older men will increase fat-free mass and muscle strength, as well as decrease fat mass due to the lowering of testosterone levels.

“There is no shortage of ingredients that claim to boost testosterone levels,” McNamara continued, “however, the ingredient list is narrowed substantially when searching for ingredients that have demonstrated positive results in humans in clinical studies, and have been extensively studied, such as Testofen.”

Overall, to address sarcopenia, Kozlenko said, “Top ingredients are adequate-protein, at least 1 gm per kg body weight, especially noted is the amino acid profile that must have leucine. Other key factors, vitamin D, and those nutritional facilitators that enhance and upregulate NAD +. Antiaging research is recognizing the importance of de-methylation of DNA in helping to keep us younger and stronger that appears to include such early researched molecules as PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), MNM, or possibly ribose-nicotinamide with accompanying bioactive compounds such as pterostilbene and resveratrol.”

Target Audience

Athletes, active life-stylers, aging men, exercise enthusiasts and weekend warriors are generally the audience for muscle-building supplements. Kozlenko added that those interested in the category are primarily aging adults, seniors, those who are chronically obese, and have other forms of wasting endocrinopathies, including diabetes.

With collagen, Rimel said GELITA has found that adults of all ages are adding the ingredient to their arsenal of supplements. “A young adult may be concerned with body shaping or the athlete wants to increase performance and optimize their training results. For an older adult, collagen can help to battle effects of aging. Their goal is to maintain quality of life and independence, by aiding their mobility and to counteract muscle loss.”

The purchasers are looking for evidence, she noted. “Modern consumers are looking to maximize health benefits through good nutrition and supplementation. This means consumers will favor products formulated with ingredients with the greatest amount of scientific research and substantiation to support them.”

Trends and Research

There is so much interest in collagen from the consumer side and they are looking to get it in many different ways. “So, while collagen has been successfully used for years in topical beauty and personal care products, such as body lotions, face cream and more, recent scientific evidence confirms that the highest efficacy can be achieved when collagen is ingested orally,” Rimel added. “It has expanded from the traditional space of dietary supplements to the functional food and beverages. In fact, Innova Market Insights confirms collagen is one of the fastest growing ingredients in the functional food space.”

McNamara added that new research has shed light on ingredients that are effective in helping to support muscle tissue throughout our lifespan. “Some of these ingredients are quite familiar, but others show exponential effectiveness in this area. Ingredients that are obvious for manufacturers, with regard to muscle strength, are common in addressing muscle loss too. These nutrients include: the BCAAs–leucine, isoleucine and valine–are essential amino acids; HMB beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate; vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3, vitamin D and carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lycopene, astaxanthin), which have been shown in several studies to quench free radicals and support healthy muscle mass in aged populations.”

The research is providing plenty of hope for recovery of muscle loss, and ways in which one can effectively take control. According to Kozlenko, “Studies on aging recognize that old age muscle cells have a great capacity to increase strength and rejuvenation through resistance exercise particularly—an absolute must. Not only does this stimulate muscle growth and strength, but this also normalizes the endocrine, neural and endocannabinoid systems and is a major generator of the synthesis of one of the most profoundly powerful intracellular antioxidants, glutathione. All this is crucial in protecting DNA, fighting endogenous sub-chronic inflammation, the basis of most disease generation, and degradation of our endothelial tissues—notably, the principal target of COVID.”

McNamara agreed, and said she sees the category as an opportunity. “Good nutritional health, physical activity, and supplementation options are the most effective early interventions. Some of the most promising nutritional interventions consist of high-quality, protein-enriched supplements and multivitamin/multimineral supplements. All this presents a significant opportunity to nutrition companies and supplement manufacturers who are looking to launch products in this healthy aging category.” NIE

For More Information:

GCI Nutrients, www.gcinutrients.com
Gelita, www.gelita.com
Gencor, www.gencorpacific.com
Seppic, www.seppic.com/en-us/united-states

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