Dietary Fibre May Mitigate Sarcopenia Risk: Findings from the NU-AGE Cohort of Older European Adults

D. Montiel-Rojas, A. Nilsson, A. Santoro, C. Franceschi, A. Bazzocchi, G. Battista, L. C. P. G. M. de Groot, E. J. M. Feskens, A. Berendsen, B. Pietruszka, O. Januszko, S. Fairweather-Tait, A. Jennings, C. Nicoletti, F.awzi Kadi

Nutrients. 2020 Apr; 12(4): 1075. doi: 10.3390/nu12041075.

Sarcopenia is characterised by a progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and physical function as well as related metabolic disturbances. While fibre-rich diets can influence metabolic health outcomes, the impact on skeletal muscle mass and function is yet to be determined, and the moderating effects by physical activity (PA) need to be considered.

The aim of the present study was to examine links between fibre intake, skeletal muscle mass and physical function in a cohort of older adults from the NU-AGE study.

In 981 older adults (71 ± 4 years, 58% female), physical function was assessed using the short-physical performance battery test and handgrip strength. Skeletal muscle mass index (SMI) was derived using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Dietary fibre intake (FI) was assessed by 7-day food record and PA was objectively determined by accelerometery. General linear models accounting for covariates including PA level, protein intake and metabolic syndrome (MetS) were used.

Women above the median FI had significantly higher SMI compared to those below, which remained in fully adjusted models (24.7 ± 0.2% vs. 24.2 ± 0.1%, p = 0.011, η2p = 0.012). In men, the same association was only evident in those without MetS (above median FI: 32.4 ± 0.3% vs. below median FI: 31.3 ± 0.3%, p = 0.005, η2p = 0.035). There was no significant impact of FI on physical function outcomes.  


Comment:   The findings from this study suggest a beneficial impact of FI on skeletal muscle mass in older adults. Importantly, this impact is independent of adherence to guidelines for protein intake and PA, which further strengthens the potential role of dietary fibre in preventing sarcopenia. Further experimental work is warranted in order to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning the action of dietary fibre on the regulation of muscle mass.