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Leeds Beckett leads research into protein-based supplements for treating and preventing muscle wasting conditions

A research programme which aims to help people with a muscle wasting condition, which contributes to poor health and quality of life is being led by Leeds Beckett University.

Sarcopenia is a muscle wasting condition which is highly prevalent in inactive, older adults and in those recovering from diseases such as Cancer and Covid-19.

Lockdown restrictions and increased hospitalisations have exacerbated sarcopenia rates, so greater efforts are now needed to address it. The combination of exercise and dietary protein intake offers a solution to this problem – exercise sensitises the muscle to the anabolic potential of protein, which provides the key ingredients called essential amino acids (EAA).

Eating the right amount of high-quality proteins helps because it provides all available EAA. However, it can be difficult to get older people and patients who may suffer from a reduced appetite to eat the right amount of high protein food, so we need to look at alternatives – the best option being EAA nutritional supplements.

Dr Theocharis Ispoglou, from the Carnegie School of Sport, who is leading the research explains how it is being used: “The key findings of the research were presented in a recent review that explored the efficacy of EAA ingestion as a strategy to optimise protein intake and successfully manage sarcopenia. As part of the programme, we have developed palatable EAA supplements that don’t supress appetite, can be taken alongside food, and potentially address protein and energy deficiencies. They are also easily absorbed into the body and can improve muscle strength and functional performance.”

The next step of the research is to work with clinicians from Leeds Teaching Hospitals to investigate the acceptability and feasibility of these nutritional prototypes in cancer and frail patients undergoing different treatment stages.

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