Preventing Muscle Mass Loss

Preventing Muscle Mass Loss

By Dr. Sean Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, CNPT, Cert-DN

As physical therapists (PTs) we do our best to optimize our older clients' strength, balance, and functioning. Obviously, our mainstay interventions focus on exercises, balance training, and adaptive equipment. In our courses, we highlight the importance of Vitamin D status and protein consumption for older adults, to improve balance, strength, and prevent sarcopenia. A recent study in Nature Aging highlights yet another potential dietary component that impacts muscle function: ceramides.

Ceramides, a sphingolipid, which is a type of fat, has been shown to reduce muscle mass and functional capacity in rodents. Moreover, it has been shown that offering ceramide-inhibiting medication effectively reverses sarcopenia, which is very promising for human studies. In the current study the authors examined older adults with a genetic variant to inhibit ceramides. The results showed these adults with the variant had significantly better grip strength, walking distance, and sit to stand function: all metrics that Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) routinely measure. The next big step for these researchers is understanding how to yield these results via medication and/or dietary changes.

Fortunately, other authors have highlighted how PTs and other clinicians can advise their patients on how to naturally reduce ceramides in their diet. In the FRUVEDomic pilot study, authors demonstrated that a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and high in saturated fat, facilitated an increase in hepatic ceramide production. The researchers concluded that even transitioning patients from a standard Western diet to even the US Dietary Guidelines would yield positive responses for aging. Imagine the impact on aging and physical functioning if we took the diet to a bit more extreme, such as the true Mediterranean or predominant plant-based diet? More research is needed, but PTs need to be aware that fruit and vegetable consumption is important for many health outcomes, and screening tools are available and easy to use. We discuss this and more in our courses!

If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!


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Keywords: nutrition, diet, continuing education, sarcopenia, muscle mass, strength, PT, physical therapy, aging, rehab, DPT


Disclaimer: The above article is written as an opinion piece and does not convey specific legal, medical, and/or practice act advice. 


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