Muscle protein turnover in the elderly and its potential contribution to the development of sarcopenia

Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 Nov;74(4):387-96. doi: 10.1017/S0029665115000130. Epub 2015 Mar 31.


The underlying aetiology of sarcopenia appears multifaceted and not yet fully defined, but ultimately involves the gradual loss of muscle protein content over time. The present evidence suggests that the loss of lean tissue in the elderly is exacerbated by low dietary protein intake. Moreover, acute stable-isotope-based methodologies have demonstrated that the muscle anabolic response to a given amount of protein may decline with age, a phenomenon that has been termed anabolic resistance. Although the mechanism responsible for the inability of muscle to mount a satisfactory anabolic response to protein provision with increasing age is presently unknown, it does not appear due to impaired digestion or absorption of dietary protein. Rather, the issue could reside with any combination of: a diminished delivery of amino acids to peripheral tissues, impaired uptake of amino acids into muscle cells, or an inability of amino acids to elicit intracellular events pivotal for anabolism to occur. Despite the presence of anabolic resistance to dietary protein, present evidence suggests that protein supplementation may be able to overcome these issues, particularly when combined with resistance exercise programmes. As such, protein supplementation may prove to be an effective approach to delay the loss of muscle mass with age and has led to calls for the recommended daily intake of protein to be increased for the elderly population.

Keywords: Amino acids; Exercise; LAT1 L-type amino acid transporter 1; Muscle protein; NO nitric oxide; SNAT sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporter; Sarcopenia; mTORc1 mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dietary Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Resistance Training
  • Sarcopenia / etiology
  • Sarcopenia / metabolism*
  • Sarcopenia / therapy


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins