What accounts for the slowdown in fat burning as we age? In a word, sarcopenia. Never heard of it? Neither has spell-check. The word was invented in 1988 by DR. Irwin Rosenberg, Director of Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, to describe the noticeable decline in skeletal muscle mass that occurs as we age. Aging specialists like Dr. Bruno Vellas, president of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics are predicting that “in the future, sarcopenia will be known as much as osteoporosis is now.”
What’s the relationship between shrinking muscles and excess pounds? Think of your muscles as your body’s fuel-burning engine. If you downsize from a V8 to a 4-cylinder, your body will use less fuel. That’s good for cars but bad for humans. The end result is that as you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories, and the unused fuel gets stored as fat. Before you know it, you have a muffin-top and can’t fit into you jeans. As the ranks of boomers mature, more of us will suffer the effects of weak muscles. Although it’s difficult to determine the prevalence of sarcopenia, by some estimates as many as 45 percent of adults over 65 are affected. The health care burden is significant. A survey conducted by Tufts University in 2000 quantified the direct health care costs associated with sarcopenia at 1.85 billion, or 1/5 percent of total health care expenditures for that year.
Reference: Lori Eber Register Sunday 5/12/13