Due to improved health care, diet and infrastructure in developed countries, since 1840 life expectancy has increased by approximately 2 years per decade. Accordingly, by 2050, a quarter of Europe's population will be over 65 years, representing a 10 % rise in half a century. With this rapid rise comes an increased prevalence of diseases of ageing and associated healthcare expenditure. To address the health consequences of global ageing, research in model systems (worms, flies and mice) has indicated that reducing the rate of organ growth, via reductions in protein synthetic rates, has multi-organ health benefits that collectively lead to improvements in lifespan. In contrast, human pre-clinical, clinical and large cohort prospective studies demonstrate that ageing leads to anabolic (i.e. growth) impairments in skeletal muscle, which in turn leads to reductions in muscle mass and strength, factors directly associated with mortality rates in the elderly. As such, increasing muscle protein synthesis via exercise or protein-based nutrition maintains a strong, healthy muscle mass, which in turn leads to improved health, independence and functionality. The aim of this review is to critique current literature relating to the maintenance of muscle mass across lifespan and discuss whether maintaining or reducing protein synthesis is the most logical approach to support musculoskeletal function and by extension healthy human ageing.
Keywords: Health; Physiology; Protein metabolism; Protein synthesis; Skeletal muscle; Strength.