Elizabeth S. Reames | 6/6/2008 8:56:40 PM
New research has found a link between eating fruits and vegetables and preserving muscle mass in older men and women, according to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Fruits and vegetables produce an alkaline residue that counteracts an acid-rich diet. The typical American diet is rich in protein, cereal grains and other acid-producing foods. In general, such diets generate tiny amounts of acid each day.
With aging, a mild, but slowly increasing metabolic "acidosis" develops, explains LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Acidosis appears to trigger a muscle-wasting response.
Reames says healthy men and women ages 65 and older typically lose 4.4 pounds of lean tissue in a decade. Sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass, can lead to falls from weakened leg muscles.
Researchers looked at links between lean body mass and diets higher in potassium-rich, alkaline residue-producing fruits and vegetables. Such diets help neutralize acidosis.
Reames says that foods can be considered alkaline or acidic based on the residues they produce in the body rather than whether they are alkaline or acidic themselves. For example, acidic grapefruits produce alkaline residues.
Fruits and vegetables also contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that are key to good health, the nutritionist adds.
Results from the study of nearly 400 male and female volunteers ages 65 and older showed that those whose diets were rich in potassium could expect to have 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than volunteers with half the higher potassium intake.
Scientists also concluded that future studies are needed on of the effects of increasing the overall intake of foods that metabolize to alkaline residues on muscle mass and functionality.
The study was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
For additional information about daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables, contact an LSU AgCenter extension agent. For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter home page at www.lsuagcenter.com.