a1 Basic and Clinical Myology Laboratory, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
Ageing is accompanied by a progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, leading to the loss of functional capacity and an increased risk for developing chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes. The age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass results from a chronic disruption in the balance between muscle protein synthesis and degradation. As basal muscle protein synthesis rates are likely not different between healthy young and elderly human subjects, it was proposed that muscles from older adults lack the ability to regulate the protein synthetic response to anabolic stimuli, such as food intake and physical activity. Indeed, the dose–response relationship between myofibrillar protein synthesis and the availability of essential amino acids and/or resistance exercise intensity is shifted down and to the right in elderly human subjects. This so-called ‘anabolic resistance’ represents a key factor responsible for the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass. Interestingly, long-term resistance exercise training is effective as a therapeutic intervention to augment skeletal muscle mass, and improves functional performance in the elderly. The consumption of different types of proteins, i.e. protein hydrolysates, can have different stimulatory effects on muscle protein synthesis in the elderly, which may be due to their higher rate of digestion and absorption. Current research aims to elucidate the interactions between nutrition, exercise and the skeletal muscle adaptive response that will define more effective strategies to maximise the therapeutic benefits of lifestyle interventions in the elderly.
(Online publication November 22 2010)