Metabolic syndrome is a national epidemic and it is affecting our muscle health. “The inflammation associated with metabolic syndrome enhances muscle loss, which is the single-most determining factor for health and vitality as we grow older,” states the father of functional medicine Jeffrey Bland, PhD, FACN, FACB, CNS.  He adds, “The increased risks of falls and disabilities are extraordinary variables working against healthy aging.”

Bland explains how muscle loss is related to metabolic syndrome. “Depleted muscle mass decreases the body’s ability to metabolize blood sugar. That can lead to more cases of metabolic syndrome which can result in even more cases of inflammation-induced muscle loss.” With metabolic syndrome affecting more than 25% of American adults, clearly, it is time to routinely assess and address muscle health in most adult patients.

Virtually every healthcare practitioner deals with patients presenting with low energy and/or chronic pain. “Both are related to diminished muscle strength and function,” Bland explains. Assessing muscle health is simple, inexpensive and something patients can continue doing at home.

“We’re in an era where people use wearable technology for measuring their sleep, steps, and heart rate variability. But a simple grip strength dynamometer is one of the most well-proven tools that can provide immediate feedback. There is a strong relationship between grip strength and overall muscular integrity, strength, and volume.” It is also considered a predictive biomarker for numerous conditions including issues with cognition and depression.

NIH-funded study shows HMB plus Vitamin D3 stem the muscle loss spiral 

A new study calls into question a longstanding belief that exercise is the only way to stimulate muscle growth. “Signals from the stress of exercise translate into a gain of muscle mass and integrity,” explains Bland. “It’s very interesting that these same signals, coming through various dietary components, can create the same kind of downstream effect on muscle expression.”

Bland is referencing the 12-month, NIH-funded study demonstrating that HMB combined with Vitamin D3 can improve muscle function in healthy older adults who do not concurrently exercise. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was published in The Journals of Gerontology.

“The combination of HMB plus D3 provides a potential for earlier remediation when muscle loss first starts to accumulate,” he observes, cautioning that this is not a substitute for exercise. “We don’t want people to sit around. We like to encourage them to make healthy lifestyle changes, one step at a time. If they start to feel better, they may be more willing to put on a coat and take a walk outside. This is about helping people feel more engaged so they will make positive changes.”

Bland stresses the need to consistently measure, monitor, and assess an individual’s health and nutritional requirements. “We are learning that individuals have far greater differences in their nutritional needs than we previously thought. Just as some people may need higher doses of vitamin D to bring their levels up, you may need to start some patients on larger doses of HMB, then titrate based on their results.”

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