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Treatment of Sarcopenia

Someone is sarcopenic when his or her lean muscle mass in kilograms divided by height squared in meters is two standard deviations away from the average normal healthy young adult of the same gender.

Exercise Intervention
Exercise intervention can prevent and even reverse the muscle atrophy associated with aging.  The most effective type of exercise for treatment of sarcopenia is resistance training.  Effects of long term chronic resistance training among the elderly include:

  • Increased IGF-1 expression
  • Increased type I & II muscle cross sectional area
  • Increased myosin heavy chain (MHC) synthesis
  • Increased strength
  • Nervous system adaptations

See the exercise portion of this website to learn more about exercise as prevention and treatment of sarcopenia

Drug Therapy
Sarcopenia is frequently a result of drug therapy prescribed for the treatment of other ailments.  Therefore, drug therapy is not the preferred modality to increase muscle mass.  Research on hormone supplementation is currently the focus of therapy not including exercise, and conflicting results as well as harmful side-effects make drug therapy a less desirable treatment plan for sarcopenia than resistance training exercise.  Urocortin II treatment and estrogen replacement therapy (HRT) are the areas of the most active research and controversy.  Additionally, testosterone supplementation, growth hormone supplementation, and treatment of the  metabolic syndrome (insulin-resistance, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, etc.) with pharmaceuticals are all under current investigation to complement the positive effects of exercise.

Urocortin II treatment
Urocortin II is a peptide which stimulates adrenocortico-tropic hormone release from the pituitary gland in the brain.  Receptors for urocortin exist in the skeletal muscle as well.  Intravenous administration of urocortin II has been shown to prevent atrophy in casted muscles and in muscles where significant coritcosteroid induced muscle loss is indicated.  It also has caused hypertrophy (muscle growth) in healthy rats.  Urocorin II also aids in treating obesity by suppressing appetite and slowing gastric emptying (leaving one to feel satiated longer). The association of urocortin II with inflammatory interleukins and cytokines is currently under investigation, and studies involving humans muscle mass and urocortin II have yet to begin.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy restores the females ovarian hormones with synthetic versions after menopause.  Short term effects of HRT include increased lean body mass and a reduction in abdominal fat accumulation.  Much controversy surrounds HRT and a recent study of the effects of HRT was halted due to the increased cancer prevalence among HRT users. Learn more about HRT

References for this page (54,31,48,57,25,11,46,28,55,2,18,37,47,29,19)

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