A High-Fat Diet Aggravates the Age-Related Decline in Skeletal Muscle Structure and Function

Hans Degens; Anandini Swaminathan; Jason Tallis

Disclosures

Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2021;49(4):253-259. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

The age-related decline in muscle function is aggravated by a high-fat diet (HFD)-induced increase in fat mass. The hypothesis is that an HFD leads to a faster accumulation of intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) and an earlier onset of muscle dysfunction in old than in young-adult individuals. The IMCL accumulation is attenuated in young-adult organisms by an elevated oxidative capacity. Methionine restriction enhances mitochondrial biogenesis and is promising to combat obesity across the ages.

Introduction

Over the last century, improvements in living conditions and health care have resulted in a significant increase in life expectancy in the Western world. This increase in life expectancy is not accompanied, however, by a proportional increase (and perhaps even a decrease) in the number of healthy life years.[1] The result is a progressively increasing proportion of older adults in the Western world having mobility limitations, a poor quality of life, and need of health care that are to a large extent attributable to muscle weakness.[2] Although death is ultimately inevitable, healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular physical activity, can result in a "trajectory of healthy aging",[3] delaying and reversing mobility limitations even in old age.

Another serious global challenge to health and health care systems is that more than 39% of people older than 18 yr are overweight and 13% are obese.[4] Obesity and overweight are risk factors for the development of insulin resistance, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.[5] Obesity may also have a negative effect on skeletal muscle function,[6] where poor muscle function may act as a catalyst to obesity-associated comorbidities. The latter may be a consequence of myosteatosis — the accumulation of fat in the muscle — that is indeed associated with poor fitness and surgical outcome.[7] In this review, we discuss the potential synergistic effect of aging and a high-fat diet (HFD) on skeletal muscle structure and function. The hypothesis of the review is that an HFD leads to a faster accumulation of intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) and an earlier onset of muscle dysfunction in old than in young-adult individuals.

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