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'Traditional British' diet may increase sarcopenia risk

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January 30, 2019

Eating a diet with higher proportions of red meat, potatoes, gravy and butter may increase the risk for sarcopenia in older British adults compared with a diet with more fiber, unsaturated fat spreads/oils and a higher percentage of energy from protein, according to findings published in Clinical Nutrition.

“Clinically, sarcopenia is linked with numerous adverse health events, including osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity, and strongly associated with frailty, risk of falls and mortality in mid and late adulthood,” Antoneta Granic, PhD, MA, research fellow for the Ageing, Geriatrics and Epidemiology Research Group at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, and colleagues wrote. “The role of the whole diet in sarcopenia risk has been little researched, with some evidence linking higher intake of individual nutrients ... and food groups ... to reduced risk of sarcopenia and better muscle function in older adults.”

Using data from the Newcastle 85+ study, Granic and colleagues conducted an analysis of the dietary patterns of 757 adults aged at least 85 years (61.2% women) from Newcastle and North Tyneside in the United Kingdom. As participants in the Newcastle 85+ study, each adult underwent a health assessment at baseline (2006-2007) and at 18, 36 and 60 months. Part of the assessment was a dietary evaluation, which was based on a 24-hour dietary recall taken on 2 nonconsecutive days at baseline.

Sarcopenia prevalence was determined at baseline and at 3 years, and incidence was reported at 3 years. Sarcopenia was defined as a skeletal muscle index of less than 8.87 kg/m2 for men and less than 6.67 kg/m2 for women, with the index based on skeletal muscle mass divided by height squared. Sarcopenia confirmation also required a gait speed of 0.8 m/s or less or a grip strength of less than 16 kg for women and less than 26 kg for men.

Participants were considered to have a low protein diet if they consumed less than 1 g of protein per adjusted body weight per day.

Three common dietary patterns were established from assessment. The first was characterized by low red meat consumption. The second, also known as “traditional British,” included more red meat, potatoes, butter and the highest intake of fat and total energy. The last pattern (“low butter”) featured more unsaturated fat spreads and oils and a higher percentage of energy from proteins. The researchers noted that the last dietary pattern was akin to the Mediterranean-style diet.

Sarcopenia was more likely in participants with the traditional British dietary pattern at baseline than the other two, but the researchers noted that the difference was not significant. However, when adjusting for sociodemographics, health-related factors and BMI, odds for sarcopenia for participants in the traditional British pattern were higher at baseline (OR = 1.75; 95% CI, 1.06-2.9) and at 3 years (OR = 2.57; 95% CI, 1.26-5.26) compared with the low butter variation. When adjusting for lifestyle factors, a significant difference remained only in the odds for prevalent sarcopenia at 3 years (OR = 2.42; 95% CI, 1.15-5.09).

Among participants who consumed lower levels of protein (n = 332), 81 had prevalent sarcopenia at baseline and 34 at 3 years. In addition, incident sarcopenia was reported in 14 participants in the group. Among those in the good protein intake group (n = 390), 64 participants had prevalent sarcopenia at baseline, 43 had it at 3 years and 19 participants had incident sarcopenia. Low protein intake was not linked to odds of prevalent or incident sarcopenia in any dietary pattern. Conversely, participants who consumed a traditional British dietary pattern who also had good protein intake had higher odds for prevalent sarcopenia at baseline (OR = 2.14; 95% CI, 1.01-4.53) and 3 years (OR = 5.45; 95% CI, 1.81-16.39) compared with the low butter/Mediterranean-style diet.

“Multiple biological mechanism may have contributed to the increased risk of sarcopenia in participants consuming the ‘traditional British diet,’ including the type and quality of dietary fat consumed within [dietary patterns],” the researchers wrote. “Our results suggest that good protein intake may not be sufficient to protect against sarcopenia if the combination of other foods in diet are not favorable.” – by Phil Neuffer

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.