The Natural Alternative

Holistic Doctor

Age-related Muscle Wasting

Question:

My husband who is a fit 67 year old who exercises, golf and tennis regularly, has found that despite this activity, his muscles are getting thinner every year. He is considering joining a gym for some weight training but I am not sure that it is good for him at his age. Can you advise about any nutritional ways of building up his muscles?

Answer:

As we age, we all naturally lose muscle mass, strength, energy, and vigour—in varying degrees. This aging-related muscle deterioration is called Sarcopenia, and in its severe form results in disabling frailty and weakness, along with a significant increased risk of illness and death.

The problem is, this “frailty of aging syndrome” is becoming a problem of epidemic proportions as the population grows older and lives longer. We all know the importance of staying active and exercising, and numerous studies have shown that active people are indeed healthier. But as we get older, it takes more and more effort to get the results we want … because our body and muscles just don’t respond to exercise the way they did when we were younger.

Exercise can be frustrating and discouraging because the results are so slow in coming. But it’s important to keep it up! Although no one cause has been found for Sarcopenia, one recent scientific conference focusing on research and treatments for the syndrome concluded that the only effective intervention was regular physical exercise that includes weight training. However, the researchers stressed the point that even people who are active, and maintain their fitness level, are not immune to developing Sarcopenia. For years scientists have searched for a compound that could safely promote muscle growth and muscle health.

Countless products have been sold to help people get more results from their exercise, both for body builders and people just interested in getting the most from their physical activity. Unfortunately, these products have been more hype than science.  Not surprisingly, most of these products have had little or no testing in humans to even show they are beneficial. This is in spite of the fact that scientists have been vigorously researching the causes and potential treatments of age-related muscle deterioration.

Luckily, all this research has actually begun to pay off. In fact, there is a special amino acid complex composed of Ornithine (an amino acid) and Ketoglutaric Acid (a natural energy-producing compound) that shows tremendous promise as a stimulator of muscle health, energy, and vitality. This compound is called Ornithine Ketoglutarate, or OKG. OKG has a successful track record in Europe for helping severely traumatized patients like burn victims. Over several decades of research and clinical use, OKG has been used to limit the protein breakdown and muscle loss that results from trauma. Numerous studies have examined both the use of OKG in trauma victims and the elderly, and have attempted to understand how this amazing amino acid compound stimulates protein synthesis in tissues and muscles.

Additionally, research has shown that OKG is also useful for supporting cardiovascular health and immune function. OKG is quickly emerging from a pharmaceutical for severely ill burn victims to a powerful amino acid supplement for all of us interested in promoting our health, strength, and vigour. Because OKG is known to stimulate muscle health and growth, it’s not surprising that it has been popular among bodybuilders. Numerous products containing OKG appeared on the market about a decade ago, but most of them have disappeared from store shelves because they contained an inferior calcium or magnesium OKG salt—not the pure OKG used in all the impressive research.

Also, most OKG products did not contain the proper dosage that has been shown to be effective, but instead contained a small, ineffective amount. Only recently has real pharmaceutical-grade OKG become available in an effective dosage. After scientists discovered that OKG had unique and remarkable anabolic effects and promoted muscle health, they did research into how it works.

One of the amazing discoveries was that while OKG strongly promoted protein synthesis and prevented tissue and muscle breakdown, the two components that make up the OKG molecule—ornithine and ketoglutaric acid—had much less effect when taken individually. Instead, the specific combination of ornithine and ketoglutaric acid together was required.3 After OKG is consumed it is rapidly metabolized, and these metabolites seem to mediate much of OKG’s benefits. Among the metabolites are arginine and glutamine. Both of these amino acids are considered “non-essential,” meaning they can be made in the body. However, scientists have known for some time that during periods of stress and injury, or as a result of aging, these non-essential amino acids should be supplied in the diet.4 In fact, for optimal health we really should consider these amino acids to be essential dietary components.

Glutamine is essential for muscle health

Glutamine itself has been used for many of the same indications as OKG, and is considered essential for muscle health, although it isn’t considered an essential dietary component. Glutamine is an important link between the metabolism of carbohydrate and protein, a component of the important antioxidant glutathione, and improves the utilization of protein by the body.5

Unfortunately, glutamine supplements have not proven very effective at significantly raising glutamine levels in the body. Because of this, many researchers have tried using precursors of glutamine like arginine and arginine ketoglutaric acid. These compounds also seem to be of little benefit for raising glutamine. OKG, however, has been shown to be very effective at raising glutamine levels in the body, working even better than taking glutamine itself.6

OKG also increases the levels of the anabolic amino acids ornithine and arginine, as well as proline, an amino acid vital for the production of collagen and connective tissue. It is this specific combination of metabolites produced from OKG in the body that are the key to its far reaching effects. Beyond its metabolites, OKG also helps support our most important protein building hormones, including growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, and insulin.

It has been documented that trauma, stress, and aging cause a dramatic decrease in the level and function of these important hormones. Among OKG’s effects in the body is the ability to simultaneously increase all these important anabolic hormones.7 This, combined with OKG’s metabolism in the body to amino acids required for these hormones to promote health, makes OKG a dietary supplement with profound beneficial effects. While the metabolites formed from OKG play an important role in muscle health, they have many other functions in our body. So it wasn’t surprising that OKG would be found to have a myriad of beneficial effects beyond its ability to stimulate protein synthesis.

One of the important findings was that OKG improved immune function. While it is thought that glutamine production from OKG is involved in this immune stimulation, it is also now known that much of this immune enhancement is from the promotion of nitric oxide synthesis. Again, as in the case of glutamine, where OKG worked better than any of its components or metabolites, OKG stimulates immune function and nitric oxide production more effectively than other precursors.8

Amazingly, OKG worked even better than the amino acid arginine, which many people have used to enhance immune function and nitric oxide production. OKG is well documented to enhance immune function in severely injured people, and likely is a very effective immune stimulator for the elderly or anyone under stress. While nitric oxide is important for immune function, it is best known as a promoter of circulation and cardiovascular health. OKG has not received much attention in this role. This is in spite of the fact that it works better than arginine, and arginine is routinely recommended to help promote nitric oxide production. Many years ago, OKG was found to be effective in the treatment of oxygen deprivation to the brain and stroke, showing it could preserve and improve brain function.9

More research is needed to demonstrate OKG’s potential cardiovascular benefits, which most likely are numerous. The elderly often have difficulty recuperating, healing, and regaining their strength after an illness. This all adds up to a lengthy recovery and high health care costs … not to mention a diminishing of the patient’s quality of life. In one groundbreaking study, doctors administered a dose of OKG daily with lunch for two months to a group of patients recovering from an acute illness.10 The results were nothing less than amazing. The group given OKG showed significant improvements in appetite, body weight, and independence. Additionally, they showed a dramatic improvement in their quality of life, along with a large decrease in their cost of medical care.

This study was done in France, and the authors concluded that the almost 40% reduction in medical costs in the OKG group made the use of OKG supplements for people convalescing from acute illness very cost effective.

Use it or lose it

OKG is a compound with amazing properties. Decades of research have shown that when it comes to amino acid or protein supplements, OKG is the heavyweight champion. With benefits for both young and old, and the ability to help us support and maintain our muscles, brain, cardiovascular system, and immune system, no other amino acid complex comes close. But to benefit from OKG you must obtain the real, pharmaceutical grade product—and use it correctly.

Real OKG is used as a powder that is added to water or juice. In order to maximize your benefits, a minimum of 5 grams should be taken once daily with a meal. Elderly individuals and people convalescing from illness will get better results taking 10 grams with a meal once daily. No side effects have been found in studies using up to 30 grams daily.

If you’re interested in using OKG to maximize the results of your exercise program, take 5-10 grams of OKG with a meal immediately after exercise. While OKG is just the support your muscles need for optimal health, it’s still important to exercise. Most scientists and doctors agree that regular exercise (and preferably weight training) can slow down age-related muscle loss. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, even the physically fit can succumb to the devastating consequences of Sarcopenia. However, it seems clear that OKG, especially when combined with regular exercise, Whey powder and the maintenance of hormone levels at youthful levels, is exactly the ammunition your body needs to fight off one of the most feared consequences of aging; becoming weak and frail.