After sitting through Day 1 of APAC’s Healthy Ageing Summit in Singapore, attendees relaxed at a cocktail reception. “The vibe of the reception was buzzing with excitement and conversations,” according to Nikki.
Invigorated by the networking and eager to learn more, Day 2 promised an interesting agenda. Nikki was particularly keen to hear about sarcopenia, a research focus of Proportion Foods.
New insights into an old age condition
Sarcopenia is not a rare condition; in fact, this accelerated loss of muscle mass and strength afflicts an estimated 5-13 percent of 60-70-year-olds.
But while healthcare professionals and patients are well informed about osteoporosis in aging, awareness levels for sarcopenia are lagging about 10 years behind, according to John Burstow from TSI Pharmaceuticals.
New research has now linked sarcopenia to cancer survival. A recent observational study found that a third of women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer had sarcopenia, and this was associated with a higher risk of dying than those with adequate muscle mass.
In fact, sarcopenia led to a 41 percent reduced risk of survival. Higher body fat was also associated with elevated mortality risk. Women with sarcopenia and excess body fat were 89 percent more likely to die.
The world’s longest health expectancy
Dr Bejit Ideas, from Japan’s Anti-Ageing Society, discussed the Okinawa Centenarian Study – a study of Okinawa’s centenarians and older adults that’s been going since 1975. They not only enjoy the world’s most prolonged life expectancy but also the longest health expectancy.
When the study began, principal investigator Dr Suzuki “found an unusual number of centenarians to be in extraordinarily healthy shape,” according to the study’s website. “They were lean, youthful-looking, energetic, and had remarkably low rates of heart disease and cancer.”
What are their secrets? Lifestyle has emerged as a pivotal feature. Older Okinawans are active both physically and mentally. Their diets are packed with fruit, vegetables, and other foods full of fibre and antioxidants. They also practice “hara hachi bu” – meaning they only eat until they are 80 percent full.
“Signatures of longevity in the gut microbiota profile” could be an important clue to living healthier and longer. According to Italian researchers, humans have a lifelong relationship with the trillions of micro-organisms that inhabit the gut, which in ageing is “an adaptive process of the human superorganism.”
Diet is a key contributor to a healthy microbiome, which helps fight inflammation, leaky gut and declining bone and cognitive health.
Putting out the fire
Inflammation lurks beneath the chronic diseases that plague modern cultures including biological ageing, as Dr Paul Clayton from the Institute of Food, Brain and Behaviour discussed in a panel debate on the future of ageing.
In fact, researchers have coined the term “inflamm-aging,” a prominent risk factor for unhealthy aging and degeneration in older people.
But how to improve people’s diets and reduce risk of chronic disease? Some propose that personalised nutrition will help, the focus of emerging research. A European project, Food4Me, showed that people find it easier to adopt healthier diets when advice is targeted to their individual needs.
The researchers concluded from a study with four different conditions that “personal is what matters most,” and predict that this could be translated into an array of different technologies to personalise nutrition advice.