Recent research suggests eating green tomatoes and apples may be key in avoiding muscle atrophy as people age.
University of Iowa scientists discovered the first example of a protein that causes muscle loss during aging. They also discovered two natural compounds, one found in apples and one found in green tomatoes, which reduced the activity of this protein, leading to a reduction in muscle aging.
The findings may help researchers better understand the gene in skeletal muscle that causes the reduction of muscle protein synthesis, strength and mass. Muscle atrophy – loss of muscle – is natural, but it is also a growing concern among the elderly because it is the root cause for issues such as balance problems, difficulty walking and falls, as well as a progressive loss of movement, weakness and numbness in the legs.
“The study speaks to some specific natural products that can have a positive effect on muscle atrophy,” says Dr. William Rhoades, primary care physician specializing in geriatric medicine at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “I caution patients that taking a pill containing the natural product found in apple peels or green tomatoes is not the same as eating apples and tomatoes.”
Beyond the physical component, Dr. Rhoades also believes that as one ages, it is important to keep an active mind.
“Activity of the brain and body are two of the best ways to reduce the effects of aging,” he says.
For the brain, active engagement is important, making activities like hobbies, games and social interactions essential.
For the body, exercise and a good diet are key. For those beginning to exercise, Dr. Rhoades recommends walking first for 20 to 45 minutes at least three to four days a week. In addition, positive effects of weight lifting for seniors has been found in the past 10 years. This can be as simple as walking with light (2.5 pound) weights, but actual weight training can also be beneficial.
Before starting any new exercise program, seniors should always check with their physician. To avoid injury, a personal trainer is also recommended anytime a persons starts a new regimen.