I have previously discussed (in my Undoctored Blog) how loss of muscle mass is a phenomenon of aging with up to 50% loss of muscle mass from age 25 to 75, especially bad if you yo-yo dieted over the years. We’ve all seen it: Aging involves reduced ability to climb stairs, hike, wrestle with a shovel, hoist heavy grocery bags, eventually leading to need for a cane, walker, wheelchair, or Boy Scout to assist you in crossing the street. Severe muscle loss, sarcopenia, is a close cousin of frailty.
Muscle mass has therefore been labeled a biomarker for biological age. We need a gauge of biological age because, unlike trees in which we count rings or measure antler wingspan in elk, we need a quantifiable measure in humans that we can track and manipulate.
In particular, inflammation—“inflammaging”—is proving to be a major factor that influences muscle mass: Any factor that increases your body’s inflammatory state adds to muscle loss and potentially accelerates associated phenomena of aging. Among the factors that influence inflammation:
Grain consumption–A major contributor to higher C-reactive protein levels and other inflammatory markers via gliadin, gliadin-derived peptides, wheat germ agglutinin, insulin provocation, dysbiotic changes in bowel flora.
Sugar consumption–Via higher insulin levels, dysbiosis, and, with grains, cultivation of visceral fat that is a major source of inflammation.
Dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth–Conversely, increased Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species and prebiotic fibers reduce inflammation and increase muscle mass, including reduction in bacterial lipopolysaccharide, a potent inflammatory mediator produced by organisms that characterize dysbiosis and SIBO (Enterobacteriaeceae). Short-chain fatty acid metabolites of bowel microorganisms, such as butyrate, trigger an increase in systemic IGF-1 alpha levels that promote muscle growth.
Butyrate–Butyrate is a byproduct of microbial metabolism with production amped up by providing prebiotic fibers. Butyrate administration has been shown to protect against age-associated muscle loss via an epigenetic mechanism in addition to its IGF-provoking effect. Notably, butyrate can also be directly ingested; rich sources include butter and our L. reuteri yogurt.
Inflammation is therefore a major influence over muscle status, along with other factors such as testosterone, IGF-1 alpha provocation, and oxytocin. (That last item, oxytocin, by the way, is why consuming our L. reuteri yogurt is such a powerful practice: It boosts oxytocin release from the hypothalamus dramatically, yielding increased muscle, reduced visceral fat, accelerated healing, increased bone density, heightened libido, etc.)
Crucial question: If muscle mass is a biomarker for age, is it simply an accompaniment or is it causal? If an accompaniment, like age spots, then increasing muscle will not yield anti-aging benefits, just as removing age spots does not make you more youthful. If it is causal, then increasing muscle mass should yield age-reversing benefits. However, the jury is still out on whether increasing muscle is associated with age-reversing effects.
Regardless, increasing muscle is a good thing. It allows you to remain independent, less likely to fall and less likely to incur injury when you do fall, exerts metabolic advantages such as enhanced insulin sensitivity and protection from visceral fat accumulation, and improves bone density. My bet is that increasing muscle mass is not like age spots and does indeed backpedal on aging to some degree. In the meantime, by engaging in Undoctored practices, such as wheat/grain/sugar elimination, vitamin D restoration, omega-3 supplementation to mimic primitive eating habits, efforts to cultivate healthy bowel flora including L. reuteri seeding, combined with physical work and/or strength training, I believe that you have stacked the odds in favor of doing the tango at age 90 long after your peers have checked out for the great big breadbasket in the sky.