Is Sarcopenia (muscle wastage & weakness) Greater in People with Inflammatory Diseases?

Today we bring you another update from the European rheumatology conference (EULAR). 

Sarcopenia is a condition that increases naturally with aging. It occurs when there is a muscle mass decline accompanied by muscle weakness and in the most severe cases, affects physical function such as walking speed. Walking speed has been a determinant in longevity. The incidence of this in people over 65 is 7-11%, in rheumatoid arthritis is 15-32%, in psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis is 20-34% and in osteoarthritis is 22-30%. 

In fact, joint damage only accounts for 21% of the cause of reduced walking speed in rheumatoid arthritis; whereas muscle wastage plays a large part. The worst outcomes occur when there is excess body fat along with low muscle mass. This altered body composition has great detriment to overall health and is more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis than just having low muscle mass alone. 

Protein helps build muscle mass, yet with aging and increased inflammation, the ability to generate muscle building from protein can be altered. The type of protein in food that is chosen can make a difference on the ability to build muscle. 

The research presented at this conference suggested fast digested whey proteins and leucine rich proteins are best at providing muscle building. Muscle mass is also promoted by having vitamin D supplementation. Research has also shown that omega-3 fish oil is helpful in promoting muscle mass and helped to improve walking speed. The addition of omega-3 has also shown to enhance rates of remission in people taking disease modifying therapies for rheumatoid arthritis. Further benefits were seen with regular exercise, which is suggested at 150 minutes per week. On average, only 17% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis achieve this goal. 

The main messages from this presentation were to prevent muscle wastage and excess fat storage consider the following: 

  • reduce inflammation, 
  • adjust the diet to include fast absorbing proteins, 
  • add omega-3,and vitamin D supplementation 
  • regular exercise

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health.  Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

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