Consuming foods rich in live microbes may prevent muscle loss

By Olivia DeSmit

- Last updated on GMT

© Nungning20 / Getty Images
© Nungning20 / Getty Images

Related tags Gut health sarcopenia Probiotic

A new study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition reports consuming foods with high amounts of live microbes may reduce the risk of sarcopenia as people age.

Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass that is associated with increased risk of falls and fractures, cognitive impairment and reduced survival. According to a recent review​, the prevalence of sarcopenia ranges from 8% to 36% in people under the age of 60 and 10% to 27% in those 60 and over. Risk factors include poor nutrition, smoking, diabetes and lack of physical activity.

“Consistent with our finding, it has been reported in previous literature that diets based on low microbiome-accessible carbohydrates resulted in declining muscle mass, while high microbiome-accessible carbohydrate diet could enhance muscle mass and/or performance by influencing intestinal microbes,” the Chinese authors wrote.

In addition, the study found that participants with diabetes did not experience the same protective effects of higher dietary live microbe intake.

Study details

The researchers analyzed data from 5,368 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Dietary information was assessed using a self-report questionnaire, and body composition and appendicular skeletal muscle were evaluated via dual energy x-ray absorptiometry.

After sorting participants into low, medium and high dietary live microbe consumption, the prevalence of sarcopenia was 15%, 12.6% and 10.4%, respectively. 

When adjusting for covariates that may affect the relationship between dietary live microbes and sarcopenia including age, gender, race, marital status, education level, alcohol and smoking, diabetes and hypertension, the reduced risk of sarcopenia was still statistically significant, the study reported.

Participants with sarcopenia had a higher likelihood of being older, having diabetes, hypertension, higher BMI and a lower milk intake, as well as a lower microbe consumption in their diet. People of Mexican American descent had a higher risk of sarcopenia, and people with higher education levels had a lower risk compared to those with an education level below the 9th ​grade. Additionally, males were more at risk than females.

"Unexpectedly, medium intake of live microbes, not high intake was associated with better cognitive function," the authors added. "The differences in microbial strains of live microbe intake and inter-individual variations in gut microbiota may account for the disparities in those health outcomes."

Sarcopenia and diabetes

Regarding the interaction between diabetes and live microbe intake and sarcopenia, the study called for further research to analyze whether the risk is different for those with and without diabetes.

“Despite our subgroup result that showed that the protective effect of higher dietary live microbe intake in protecting against sarcopenia was counteracted by the presence of diabetes, the gut microbiome is known to play a critical role in the development and exacerbation of both sarcopenia and diabetes,” the authors noted.


Source: Clinical Nutrition
doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2024.05.030
“Higher dietary live microbe intake is associated with a lower risk of sarcopenia”
Authors: Yan, K., et al.

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