Researchers discover compound preventing muscle loss and weight gain in seniors

Muscle loss takes away independence and causes health problems as we age, evident especially now as we are living longer.

NEW ORLEANS — Researchers in Louisiana have made a discovery that could one day treat two problems common to aging, losing muscle while gaining fat.

The ground-breaking research is just out today in a medical journal, and the lead scientist explains how it works.

As we age, we lose muscle mass. And that natural decline begins early on, around the late 30s.

“So it’s very much a use it or lose it muscle, so one of the natural instincts we fight more often or not, is just the desire to do less,” said Chris Axelrod, Director of Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine at LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Muscle loss takes away independence and causes health problems as we age, evident especially now as we are living longer.

“That muscle mass is going to be one of the largest predictors of the quality of your life, and maybe the length of your life,” he said.

And obesity in older age accelerates muscle loss. You can slow the natural process of losing muscle with exercise, and quality protein in your diet, but now researchers at LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, have discovered chemical a compound that helped elderly obese mice, lose weight, add muscle and strength, reduce inflammation, and increase physical activity.

“Instead of affecting how much food you’re eating, you’re affecting how much food you’re breaking down to use to make energy. It dramatically, and I mean dramatically decreases body weight,” Axelrod explained.

That excess fuel, or calories, normally would be stored as fat.

The study is published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. It’s the first evidence that the compound BAM15, works inside the cell’s energy production center to prevent muscle loss and fat increase as we age. This is different from dieting, by reducing calories, which causes weight loss of fat and muscle.

“We know that it treats obesity. We know that it can promote healthy aging. It can treat certain forms of cancer.”

But years of research is needed still and is now ongoing, to see if it works in people, and to design the compound and dose that is safe.

Scientists warn that at this stage, the synthetic compound being sold on the internet is for research purposes only.

Click here to sign up for a number of weight loss studies at Pennington.

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