Nutrition strategies to counteract sarcopenia: a focus on protein, LC n-3 PUFA and precision nutrition

Proc Nutr Soc. 2023 Sep;82(3):419-431. doi: 10.1017/S0029665123003555. Epub 2023 Jul 17.


Diminished skeletal muscle strength and size, termed sarcopenia, contributes substantially to physical disability, falls, dependence and reduced quality of life among older people. Physical activity and nutrition are the cornerstones of sarcopenia prevention and treatment. The optimal daily protein intake required to preserve muscle mass and function among older adults is a topic of intense scientific debate. Older adults require protein intakes about 67 % higher than their younger counterparts to maximally stimulate postprandial muscle protein synthesis rates. In addition, evidence suggests a possible benefit of increasing protein intake above the population reference intake (0⋅83 g/kg/d) on lean mass and, when combined with exercise training, muscle strength. In addition to protein quantity, protein quality, the pattern of protein intake over the day and specific amino acids (i.e. leucine) represent key considerations. Long-chain n-3 PUFA (LC n-3 PUFA) supplementation has been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis rates, increase muscle mass and function and augment adaptations to resistance training in older adults. Yet, these effects are not consistent across all studies. Emerging evidence indicates that an older person's dietary, phenotypic and behavioural characteristics may modulate the efficacy of protein and LC n-3 PUFA interventions for promoting improvements in muscle mass and function, highlighting the potential inadequacy of a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. The application of personalised or precision nutrition to sarcopenia represents an exciting and highly novel field of research with the potential to help resolve inconsistencies in the literature and improve the efficacy of dietary interventions for sarcopenia.

Keywords: Ageing; Leucine; Omega-3 fatty acids; Precision nutrition; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Review