Can supplements support aging muscles?


Supplements that support muscle health may help aging Americans lead safer, active lives.

Photo © Images

Photo © Images

If lifting weights or other muscle-building techniques cause worries about one turning overnight into a ripped, huge bodybuilder, it shouldn’t. Muscle health at all stages of life—particularly while aging—is an important consideration for every American.

Muscle Health and Strength Gains: What’s the Difference?

Despite the claims of some companies promising to help people build muscle overnight or without effort, this isn’t how it works. Time, energy, attention, and patience are essential while building muscle.

“While muscle health and strength are often seen as closely related, there are some differences in the approaches and considerations when it comes to supporting healthy muscle aging versus gaining strength,” says Andrew Franklyn-Miller, PhD, chief medical and innovation officer at Nuritas (Dublin, Ireland). “We know that muscle mass is critical in longevity, cardiovascular health, brain health, and metabolic health, so maintaining that muscle mass is critical for far more than looks in the gym or strength alone.”

Healthy Cells, Healthy Muscles

Healthy muscle aging requires muscles that are strong down to their most base elements. That’s where cellular health comes in. This is the belief that a body is truly healthy when that health radiates deep into every cell.

Shawn Baier, vice president of business development, Innovative Products Division, at TSI Group Ltd. (Missoula, MT), says interest in this area is growing and that the concept is linked in consumers’ minds with healthy aging and active lifestyles. “[T]his is a rapidly growing category, specifically in terms of benefits sought for immune and cognitive health,” Baier adds. “Consumers want to know what more they can do to proactively maintain their health.”

He believes that peer-reviewed studies are essential when a company is creating a new product or offering. As far as ingredients go, “Glutathione, NAD, NAC, and, to some extent, omega-3s all operate in this space, all supported by volumes of science, although different delivery systems have varying levels of bioavailability and efficacy,” Baier explains. “That’s why it is so essential for an ingredient to be backed by peer-reviewed published research.”

Muscle Health and Aging: What’s New?

Franklyn-Miller notes that while the muscle health industry is wide-ranging and always evolving, in recent years Nuritas has noticed some interesting trends emerge. “Consumers have begun to identify the benefits of muscle mass being protective for aging, metabolic health, and cognitive health,” he says.

This, in turn, has led more individuals to increase their protein intake and move away from processed foods. “We have also seen a growing interest in supplements that support muscle health and combat the negative effects of aging, including muscle atrophy,” he says.

Additionally, he notes that supporting healthy muscle aging may be particularly important for overall health and quality of life as muscle mass and function play important roles in activities of daily living and can impact mobility, balance, and risk of falls.

Consistent use by consumers is what the industry wants now, Baier states. This is accomplished in two ways: first, by creating a culture of brand loyalty and increasing compliance through research, education, and product development.

“The second way is to have consumers so thoroughly educated on the value that even if they don’t experience an immediate benefit, they become daily users because of the long-term value the product delivers,” he says. He points to multivitamins as an example. “Cellular health will go through a similar progression of adoption,” Baier predicts.

Challenges in Muscle Aging Products

Caution on the part of consumers is smart, says Baier, as many products tout being “all natural” or make other claims that can’t be substantiated. For instance, “Consumers should understand there is no single, accepted definition of cellular health,” says Baier. “When shopping for cellular health products, it is always smart to start by looking at the research and try to understand which benefits have been explored and are supported by published studies.”

A few important questions Baier would encourage individuals to ask before purchasing a product are:

  • Was a branded ingredient or finished product used in the studies?
  • Is the branded product or ingredient supported by safety and toxicity studies?
  • How are different supplements/ingredients taking different approaches to cellular health?

As more individuals understand the importance of muscle health and the products and lifestyle changes that support it, this submarket is expected to see continued growth in the industry.

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