Dietary Patterns, Skeletal Muscle Health, and Sarcopenia in Older Adults

Nutrients. 2019 Mar 30;11(4):745. doi: 10.3390/nu11040745.


In recent decades, the significance of diet and dietary patterns (DPs) for skeletal muscle health has been gaining attention in ageing and nutritional research. Sarcopenia, a muscle disease characterised by low muscle strength, mass, and function is associated with an increased risk of functional decline, frailty, hospitalization, and death. The prevalence of sarcopenia increases with age and leads to high personal, social, and economic costs. Finding adequate nutritional measures to maintain muscle health, preserve function, and independence for the growing population of older adults would have important scientific and societal implications. Two main approaches have been employed to study the role of diet/DPs as a modifiable lifestyle factor in sarcopenia. An a priori or hypothesis-driven approach examines the adherence to pre-defined dietary indices such as the Mediterranean diet (MED) and Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-measures of diet quality-in relation to muscle health outcomes. A posteriori or data-driven approaches have used statistical tools-dimension reduction methods or clustering-to study DP-muscle health relationships. Both approaches recognise the importance of the whole diet and potential cumulative, synergistic, and antagonistic effects of foods and nutrients on ageing muscle. In this review, we have aimed to (i) summarise nutritional epidemiology evidence from four recent systematic reviews with updates from new primary studies about the role of DPs in muscle health, sarcopenia, and its components; (ii) hypothesise about the potential mechanisms of 'myoprotective' diets, with the MED as an example, and (iii) discuss the challenges facing nutritional epidemiology to produce the higher level evidence needed to understand the relationships between whole diets and healthy muscle ageing.

Keywords: Mediterranean diet; dietary patterns; muscle function; muscle mass; muscle strength; nutrition; older adults; sarcopenia; ‘myoprotective’ diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Diet, Mediterranean
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frailty / etiology
  • Frailty / physiopathology
  • Frailty / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Sarcopenia / etiology
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology*
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control