Volume 11, Issue 53 July 2, 2014
The best diet for preserving
muscle mass as you age
One of the greatest challenges to aging is preserving lean (muscle) tissue mass. Losing it leads to falls and fractures. And we tend to eat foods that cause muscle loss. Researchers have shown that acidic bodies promote muscle wasting. Eating protein-laden diets and even the popular cereal-grain diet leads to a net acid load. That means the popular grain-based diets that are vegetarian could be self-defeating in the long run. With this in mind, a group of researchers set out to determine if potassium, an alkaline mineral, could be linked to preserving your lean body mass. Here's what they found.

They took 384 subjects over 64 who they were already following for vitamin D and calcium. They measured their 24-hour elimination of potassium and scientifically measured their lean body mass. At baseline, the mean urinary potassium excretion was 67.0 +/- 21.1 mmol/d. The more potassium excreted in a day, the greater the lean body mass.

During the three years they conducted the study, lean body mass increased an average 2.6%. The authors concluded that "higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women."

This is terrific information verifying the dietary concepts I write about. Contrary to what other medical writers tell you, more protein is not necessarily better. It can be counterproductive. Here we see that more fruit and veggies, not meat, preserve muscle mass. One reason is that an alkaline diet preserves critical minerals. Potassium is a marker. If you are eliminating lots of potassium, it means that you are getting plenty in your diet so that you don't need to retain it. If you are acidic and need to hold on to potassium, you won't be urinating out so much.

You can't imagine how often I get asked about getting enough protein as a vegetarian. When eating a really high quality alkaline diet, you are better able to preserve your tissues. Your need for protein actually goes down. I think that 30-40 grams of high quality protein a day are plenty!

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Yes, we do need protein. Researchers in a second article underscored this. They found that supplementing the diet of older people with essential amino acids and arginine improves strength. But these elderly adults were glucose intolerant. That means that they had likely dietary indiscretions for a long time. My goal is to keep you from going the way that they did so that you need amino acids when you age.

Prevention is always your best bet. Eating foods naturally rich in potassium will help keep you alkaline and preserve your body into your later years. Again, I'm not telling you to go vegan. Know that eggs and fish are probably the best quality and most digestible of the animal proteins. But also know that they are acidic as well. Use animal protein in great moderation for best results for your health.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):662-5; Clin Nutr, 2008 Feb 20.

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