As we age, it is natural for muscle loss to occur. This process, known as sarcopenia, is estimated to occur at the rate of approximately 1% to 2% muscle loss annually after the age of 50, and is largely inevitable.
In like fashion, strength also decreases starting around this time, at a rate of about 1.5% annually starting at age 50, and in some cases as much as 3% annually after age 60. Regardless, a study was devised to investigate if supplementation with astaxanthin could help ameliorate some degree of sarcopenic muscle loss, and help to preserve a large degree of strength.
Owing to the fact that over $18 billion is expended annually on health care costs attributed to sarcopenic disorders, it is wise to see if supplementation with a readily available formulations can help offset such expenses.
First published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, September 2018, the study included 42 participants whose ages ranged between 65 to 82, and sought to compare muscle size and strength between a group that received placebo, and a study group that received a combination of astaxanthin (12mg daily), tocotrienols (10mg) and zinc (6mg daily), over the course of four months.
Subjects started supplementation with the placebo or active supplement, known as Astamed, one month before starting a 3 month active exercise training program, as the effects of the supplement were to be studied along with an exercise regimen.
Both groups reported improvements to overall endurance, as was observed during interval walking sessions on a treadmill set to an incline. Average distance covered over the course of six minutes also improved in both groups, but the Astamed supplement group also reported other favorable findings.
These included an average 2% larger muscle mass volume, 14% average increase in maximal voluntary force, and 12% increase in specific force. None of these improvements were observed in the group receiving placebo.
Astaxanthin is best known as a carotenoid compound that is often supplemented to preserve the health of the eyes. It does this by virtue of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, which is postulated as being the same mechanism by which it is able to reduce sarcopenic muscle loss.
In particular, the neuromuscular junction – the interface where muscles meet the nerves, are subject to oxidative damage that may lead to subsequent reduction in maximal force output. Buffering of the oxidative damage is believed to help with rejuvenation and reactivation of signals sent the muscles, in turn increasing the likelihood of muscle fiber recruitment.
In simple terms, enhanced activation of muscle fibers equates to reduced muscle loss owing to sarcopenia.
Being the first study of its kind, the findings show the exciting potential that Astamed may have on reducing age-related mobility loss, and may also assist with preservation of functional strength in the elderly.
More studies will need to be done to confirm these findings, but there is unlikely to be any harm from consuming such a combination now.
Sophia Z. Liu Amir S. Ali, et al. Building strength, endurance, and mobility using an astaxanthin formulation with functional training in elderly. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle September 2018 doi 10.1002/jcsm.12318