Only a very small percentage of older adults in the U.S. are doing
enough to keep their muscles strong, according to a report from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This is a critical lapse for many reasons, but here are two good
ones: 1) The moderate amount of exercise required to maintain
muscles will yield other important health benefits. And 2) Keeping
muscles strong is relatively easy.
And now it may be even easier. According to a new study that
appears in a recent issue of the journal Nutrition, key nutrients
have been shown to help develop muscle mass and support
physical functioning as we age.
Getting a grip
Because age-related muscle loss is associated with osteoporosis
and an increased risk of falls, researchers at the Vanderbilt
University Medical Center wanted to find out if an intake of three
nutrients might provide a simple way to help prevent muscle loss.
The Vanderbilt researchers recruited a group of 50 women whose
average age was about 77. Over a 12-week period, a “treatment
group” of 27 women received a daily supplement containing 1.5
grams of lysine, 2 grams of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, and
5 grams of arginine. (I’ll tell you more about these three nutrients
in a moment.) A second group of 23 women received a placebo.
Before and after the trial period, several measurements were taken
to determine potential changes in muscle mass:
* Whole-body protein synthesis and loss (estimated with a
specially designed blood test)
* Limb, hip and abdomen circumference
* Leg and handgrip strength
* Physical functionality
* Levels of hormones that affect proteins
* Percentage of lean body mass and body fat
The hormone levels of both groups remained the same, but the
treatment group improved in all other categories compared to the
placebo group. The treatment group also had a significant increase
in the average circumference of limbs, and their protein synthesis
increased approximately 20 percent, compared to placebo subjects.
Researchers concluded that a daily supplement of these three
nutrients may play an important role in muscle health, while
improving functionality, protein synthesis and strength in older
According to Healthnotes Newswire, the average person over the
age of 70 may experience muscle loss as high as 15 percent per
decade. So a 12-week trial can’t begin to show an accurate picture
of the long-term benefits of these nutrients. Nevertheless, the
results of the Vanderbilt research provide a basis to consider
supplementing with the nutrients studied, especially for older
people who may be incapacitated in some way that prohibits
In the e-Alert “Five Stars” (8/26/03), I told you about arginine
(also known as L-arginine), which is a remarkable amino acid,
known to play a role in blood vessel dilation, reduction of
inflammation, repair of skin and connective tissue, and thymus
gland regulation. Arginine has also been shown to facilitate muscle
metabolism by reducing body fat while increasing muscle mass.
Dietary sources of arginine include diary products, meat, poultry
and fish, as well as nuts, rice, whole-wheat, soy and raisins.
In the Health e-Tips e-letter “Keeping Your Extra Parts” (5/13/04),
Amanda Ross explained that lysine – an essential amino acid – has
been used to increase calcium absorption and may help prevent
osteoporosis. In supplement form, high doses of lysine may raise
cholesterol levels and increase the risk of gallstones, so lysine
supplementation should be monitored by a nutritionally oriented
physician. Dietary sources of lysine include meat, fish, dairy
products, legumes and brewer’s yeast.
The third nutrient in the Vanderbilt study is beta-hydroxy-beta-
methylbutyrate (HMB), a derivative of the amino acid leucine.
HMB is not widely studied in humans, but animal tests show that it
may improve the growth of lean muscle tissue by slowing protein
breakdown. The dietary sources of HMB are limited to small
amounts in citrus fruits, catfish and alfalfa.
Up off the duff
So let’s say you check with your doctor about these three
nutrients, he gives you the green light to monitor supplementation,
and in time they begin strengthening your muscles. That’s great.
But for older people who are able, exercise is still the most
effective way to support muscle strength. And more specifically,
exercise that incorporates weight training or resistance training will
yield the best results, including:
* Reducing the risk of falls and fractures
* Increasing endurance
* Promoting healthy bone density
* Improving insulin sensitivity
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has published a free
guidebook for starting an exercise program, which is available on
their web site: nia.nih.gov/exercisebook. The book provides a
section on diet advice that offers the outdated and misguided
USDA food pyramid as a dietary guideline, but other than that,
you’ll find useful tips for starting and staying with a strength
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and another thingThere’s no other word to describe it except for outrage.
Last week, a U.S. district court stopped the sale of three very
popular natural therapies: BeneFin, SkinAnswer and MGN-3.
Upon hearing that, one would assume these products must have
been responsible for countless deaths and had swarms of customers
shouting for their recall.
In fact, none of these products were proven to be harmful or
ineffective nor was the action based on customer complaints. The
FDA accused LaneLabs (their manufacturer) of making claims that
qualified the products as unapproved new drugs, requiring formal
FDA approval. After a lengthy legal process, the court agreed and
ordered LaneLabs to cease production and sale of the products.
That action alone would have been sufficient in order to stop the
marketing practices the FDA objected to. But the judge took it
much further, dealing an essentially fatal blow. He also ordered
LaneLabs to destroy the remaining inventory of all three products,
except for an amount of BeneFin needed to complete a National
Cancer Institute study. In addition, LaneLabs may be ordered to
reimburse all of the customers who purchased these products since
1999. It’s important to note that this isn’t limited to customers who
requested their money back. It’s EVERYONE that bought one of
these three products in the last four years.
Given that the FDA complaint concerned only marketing practices
– not efficacy or safety – these court orders border on the insane.
And they should act as a loud wake up call for the entire industry.
The court probably feels contently smug, knowing it has punished
LaneLabs, and possibly put this innovative manufacturer out of
business. But ultimately it is the consumer being punished by
losing access to these products, which have all been proven to be
useful. So, in order to protect us from marketing language, the
court is willing to take away our protection from serious illnesses.
Throughout the years, we have recommended many LaneLabs
products, including the targets in this action. In each case, we
believed the therapies to be beneficial and safe, and we received
encouraging testimonials from members who tried them and were
happy with the results. We continue to stand behind our belief that
LaneLabs is a revolutionary company that could have – and may
still – change the face of American medicine.
In the meantime, with BeneFin, SkinAnswer and MGN-3 now
unavailable to you, we will ask our HSI panelists and researchers
to continue looking for natural and effective therapies that deliver
the same safe alternatives to mainstream medicine that these
products provided. As we discover them, we’ll tell you about them
in upcoming e-Alerts and HSI Members Alerts.
But our hope is that LaneLabs’ products will soon be readily
available again to those who need them most, here in the land of
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Health Sciences Institute
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(if you can’t open here use the HTML links listed below)
“Effect of Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methylbutyrate, Arginine, and
Lysine Supplementation on Strength, Functionality, Body
Composition, and Protein Metabolism in Elderly Women”
Nutrition, Vol. 20, No. 5, May 2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
“Battle Age-Related Muscle Loss with Amino Acid Combination”
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, Healthnotes Newswire, 6/24/04,
“Strength Training Among Adults Aged >65 Years” Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, Vol. 53, No. 2, 1/23/04, cdc.gov
“Strength Training Urged for Elderly” Merritt McKinney, Reuters
Health, 1/23/04, story.news.yahoo.com
“Growing Older, Staying Strong: Preventing Sarcopenia Through
Strength Training” International Longevity Center – USA, Issue
Brief, September-October, 2003, ilcusa.org
“Judge Halts Sale of Herbal Remedies” Susan Todd, Star-Ledger,