London: Drinking green tea and taking a cocoa-rich diet may reduce age-related neuromuscular alterations that occur with sarcopenia -- the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, finds a mice study.
Sarcopenia is one of the main reasons for loss of muscle mass. On an average, it is estimated that 5-13 per cent of elderly people aged 60-70 years are affected by sarcopenia. The numbers increase to 11-50 per cent for those aged 80 or above.
"Sarcopenia is considered the main causative factor of the physical performance decline in the elderly," said Jordi Caldero from the Universitat de Lleida in Spain.
"The compromised muscular function associated with sarcopenia has a negative impact on the life quality of older adults and increases the risk for adverse health outcomes including disability, fall-associated injuries, morbidity, and mortality," Caldero added.
Besides skeletal muscle wasting, sarcopenia entails morphological and molecular changes in distinct components of the neuromuscular system, including spinal cord motoneurons and neuromuscular junctions.
The study, published in the journal Aging, examined the impact of two flavonoid-enriched diets containing either green tea extract (GTE) catechins or cocoa flavanols on age-associated regressive changes in the neuromuscular system of C57BL/6J mice.
The dietary intake of flavonoids from green tea or cocoa was able to significantly increase the survival rate of aged mice and to prevent some regressive structural changes occurring with senescence in distinct cellular components of the neuromuscular system.
Both diets clearly preserved neuromuscular junctions' innervation and maturity, delayed the senescence process of the skeletal muscle, and enhanced its regenerative capacity, as inferred from the more "youthfula cellular phenotype of myofibers, the apparent reduction of myofiber degeneration/regeneration cycles, the researchers explained.
Moreover, GTE, but not cocoa, reduced ageing-associated microgliosis and increased the proportion of neuroprotective microglial phenotypes.
"Our data indicate that certain plant flavonoids may be beneficial in the nutritional management of age-related deterioration of the neuromuscular system," the researchers said.