Asian News International
Auckland, March 3, 2006
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but as a new study is trying to show, the best way to keep declining muscle function at bay in elderly people, could be by drinking a glass of chocolate milk after a nice stroll.
The study is being carried out on a group of elderly Kiwis by a team of researchers led by Dr Benjamin Miller at the University of Auckland's Faculty of Science.
The new research aims to develop a non-pharmaceutical means to maintain muscle function and quality of life in older individuals.
As a part of the study, elderly Kiwis were asked to perform two identical sessions of aerobic exercise on a stationary bike.
After one session the participants were asked to drink a mixture of protein and carbohydrate (e.g. sweetened milk) and after the other just carbohydrates.
Dr Miller said that the study was specifically meant to target the powerhouse of the cells - the mitochondria - for they are a cause of age-related decreases in muscle function, and that the researchers are trying to determine whether aerobic exercise can also increase the synthesis of mitochondrial proteins which affect the ability to make energy and play a large role in mortality
"We know of course, that, exercise has a wide variety of health benefits, but our research specifically targets mitochondria since they are a cause of age-related decreases in muscle function," he said.
Dr Miller added that the decrease in the amount of mitochondria is determined by the turnover of proteins in the mitochondria, and the researchers were trying to find an effective and easy way to maintain the protein content in muscles or at least replace old and damaged proteins with new ones.
"The ability of people to create energy and perform work stems from structures that exist inside our cells called mitochondria. As we grow older the amount of mitochondria we have decreases and with it our respiratory capacity. This decline is determined by the turnover of proteins in the mitochondria. We hope to highlight an effective and easy way to maintain the protein content in muscles or at least replace old and damaged proteins with new ones," he said.
"If successful, we could prove that our non-pharmaceutical means to increase muscle quality could mean that a practice as simple as drinking a Milo after exercise may help reduce our morbidity and prolong mortality," he concluded.