Micronutrients and physical function in older people


A decrease in bone and muscle mass characterize normal aging. Related with the decline in muscle mass, there is a reduction in muscle strength; this combination contributes to frailty, fracture risk, reduction in quality of life, and loss of independence (everyday tasks, such as rising from a chair and gait performance, are hampered by a reduction in muscle strength). Risk factors for falls and fracture include reduced bone mass, muscle weakness, impaired balance, and lessened visual acuity. The age-related changes in the musculoskeletal system reflect the aging process but also the consequences of reduced physical activity.

Only 16 micronutrients have appropriate scientific evidences in terms of improving musculoskeletal health in older people: beta-alanine, calcium, creatine, fluorides, leucine, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K2, and zinc.

In particular, omega-3 fatty acids are associated with brain, cardiovascular and immune function, as well as physical performance and bone health in older adults. Older people with a low omega-3 index have worse physical function (defined as to be able to stand unassisted without the use of a cane or walker, standing balance, gait speed, and repetitions sit-to-stand) than people with a high omega-3 index. There is only a way to increase this index: to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids through diet or supplementation (and may help to reduce the intake of omega-6 fatty acids).