An average man’s lean body mass decreases by about 10 percent every decade due to aging and a lower production of testosterone. As a man loses muscle mass, he gains even more body fat, resulting in less circulating testosterone, which further compounds the problem. Science studies have directly linked testosterone loss with age to muscle wasting, loss of strength and power, and diminished overall exercise capacity.
All of this loss of physical function contributes to an overall frail condition that invites a further decline in health.
Frailty, along with all of its potential disability for broken hips from falls, is one direct result of losing skeletal muscle mass. In a study of 461 men, sixty years and older, Swiss scientists found that low free testosterone was a key factor “associated with a significantly increased odds of frailty,” based on five criteria for assessing someone as frail. Men with free testosterone levels below 243 pmol/L, had the highest increased odds of becoming frail.
A consequence of low testosterone in older men can be anemia (iron-poor or “tired” blood), resulting in weakness that can be another contributing factor to a diminishment of muscle strength and function, triggering muscle wasting. In a 2017 study involving twenty-three scientists from a dozen universities, a group of 788 men, sixty-five years and older, were evaluated for their testosterone levels and symptoms of anemia. “Among men with low testosterone levels,” the science team concluded, “testosterone treatment significantly increased the hemoglobin levels of those with unexplained anemia as well as those with anemia from known causes.”
Natural Solution: Apples and Green Tomatoes During a research study by a team from the Iowa veterans Affairs Medical Center, investigating the molecular mechanisms of age-related skeletal muscle weakness and atrophy, several molecules were identified that can “significantly reduce age-related deficits in skeletal muscle strength, quality and mass.”
These two molecules with potential therapeutic intervention applications are ursolic acid (found in apples) and tomatidine (derived from green tomatoes.) Once inside the human body, these molecules activate something known as a protein transcription factor 4 (ATF4), to act on skeletal muscle and reduce the impact of aging. By reducing ATF4 activity in the body, these two molecules enable skeletal muscle to recover from the effects of aging.
“Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older,” commented Dr. Christopher Adams, a senior author of the study. “These problems have a major impact on our quality of life and health. Based on these results, ursolic acid and tomatidine appear to have a lot of potential as tools for dealing with muscle weakness and atrophy during aging.”
Work is now underway by Adams and colleagues “to translate ursolic acid and tomatidine into foods, supplements, and pharmaceuticals that can help preserve or recover strength and muscle mass as people grow older,” according to a University of Iowa release statement.
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