Inhibit myostatin with chocolate, increase muscle mass?

Mice that don’t have myostatin have dramatically increased muscle mass:

MyostatinMs

Myostatin levels increase during aging, a finding that may (at least partially) explain age-related decreases in muscle mass (Basaria and Bhasin 2012). Is there anything that we can do besides strength-training (Snijders et. al 2014) to decrease myostatin levels?

To address this question, Gutierrez-Salmean and colleagues (2014) supplemented young and old mice and humans (29 vs. 62y) with epicatechin, which is found in may foods (see the Table below). They found that in both mice and humans, myostatin increased during aging. However, epicatechin supplementation decreased muscle myostatin levels in both young and old mice and humans! Although they did not report how muscle mass changed as a result of epicatechin supplementation, grip strength significantly improved after only 7 days of supplementation in the older adults. Although this study had a relatively small sample size (20 total subjects), that a food component can reduce myostatin levels is an interesting finding.

So, which foods are rich in epicatechin?

Atop the list are cocoa containing products. It is important to note that 50mg/day of epicatechin were provided to the human volunteers of the Gutierrez-Salmean study. Obtaining 50mg of epicatechin may be relatively easy, if one chooses wisely from the foods listed in the Table. For example, drinking 20 ounces of white, black or green tea would yield 10-46mg of epicatechin. Homemade chocolate (https://michaellustgarten.com/2014/09/21/homemade-chocolate-in-2-minutes/) containing 1 ounce of cacao beans yields ~27 mg of epicatechin.

epicatechin foods table

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!

References:

Epicatechin data: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400525/Data/Flav/Flav_R03.pdf

Basaria S, Bhasin S. Targeting the skeletal muscle-metabolism axis in prostate-cancer therapy. N Engl J Med. 2012; 367:965–967.

Gutierrez-Salmean G, Ciaraldi TP, Nogueira L, Barboza J, Taub PR, Hogan MC, Henry RR, Meaney E, Villarreal F, Ceballos G, Ramirez-Sanchez I. Effects of (-)-epicatechin on molecular modulators of skeletal muscle growth and differentiation. J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jan;25(1):91-4.

Snijders T, Verdijk LB, Smeets JS, McKay BR, Senden JM, Hartgens F, Parise G, Greenhaff P, van Loon LJ. The skeletal muscle satellite cell response to a single bout of resistance-type exercise is delayed with aging in men. Age (Dordr). 2014;36(4):9699.

Michael Lustgarten

Ph.D, Physiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 2009 B.S., Biochemistry, Queens College, 2003 B.A, English Textual Studies, 1994, Syracuse University

12 thoughts on “Inhibit myostatin with chocolate, increase muscle mass?

  1. Myostatin is homologous with human GDF-11. So, wouldn’t this be an issue, as reducing myostatin may lead to a promotion of aging, because GDF-11 will also be reduced?

    1. GDF11 also increased muscle mass in a recent paper. Considering that reducing myostatin increases muscle mass and, that muscle mass decreases with age, decreasing myostatin in the aged is a good idea, imo. I wrote the article focusing on foods that may reduce myostatin, so I doubt that drinking more free tea, which may boost myostatin-dependent muscle mass mechanisms will promote aging in other organ systems, as many positive health benefits from green tea (and the other foods on the list) are reported.

  2. Another thought-provoking post. At the moment I’m caring for an elderly relative and I’m constantly amazed at how much her muscles have dimished as she’s aged. Over the last year I’ve helped her focus on consuming more vegetables, legumes, and fruit (she was chronically potassium deficient which caused several health consequences). I will encourage her to eat epicatechin-rich foods now too and I will look for that article on strength training. On a related note, I’d be very interested in hearing your point of view on exercise as it relates to longevity (is that in your book?). I’m also curious about what you do for exercise. Like a lot of us it sounds like you might have a desk job. If so, how are you dealing with that?

    1. Exercise is well known to increase average lifespan, but not maximal. So something about exercise is clearly beneficial but simultaneously detrimental. I’ve been wearing WHOOP for the past 5 months, which tracks HRV, HR, and sleef. Based on that, I’ve altered my workout duration, days, and intensity, while still making strength gains, and improving my fitness. So exercise is very important! I’ll post on this in the next few weeks.

      Even though I have a desk job, I’m very active. My average caloric needs are ~2800/day. I walk at least 2 miles/day, and exercise for about an hour/day 5 days a week.

      1. Thanks for your reply Michael! That’s interesting about exercise not increasing maximal lifespan! I will check out WHOOP too and keep exercising.

    2. Exercise is well known to increase average lifespan, but not maximal. So something about exercise is clearly beneficial but simultaneously detrimental. I’ve been wearing WHOOP for the past 5 months, which tracks HRV, HR, and sleef. Based on that, I’ve altered my workout duration, days, and intensity, while still making strength gains, and improving my fitness. So exercise is very important! I’ll post on this in the next few weeks.

  3. I’m still thinking about this. I wish I had time to exercise for an hour everyday. I have a desk job plus I’m a caregiver for my elderly parents (hence my interest in your blog). I have to make every minute of exercise count. Is there data that tells us how to prioritize exercise (if we’re time constrained)? Should I emphasize HIIT or steady state cardio or weight lifting or walking? At least I can multitask while walking (listen to podcasts or take phone calls). I can wait for a future post on the topic of exercise and longevity…

    1. Exercise is well known to increase average, but not maximal lifespan. For example, have you ever seen a master’s athlete at 115y? So there’s something about exercise that’s good but also somewhat bad for health. I’m constantly tweaking my routine to maximize its health benefits while minimizing it’s adverse effects (soreness, worse deep sleep). Currently I’m tracking HRV, HR, and sleep stages, with the goal of improving all of that.

      Yes, I’ll post on this at some point! I’ve reduced my resting HR to 46, which is lower than I’ve ever had before. My average had been ~50-52 for the past 20y, and it’s not by killing myself in the gym-I don’t have a gym membership!

      1. It’s interesting you say that, because I also got my lower HR, and maintain it, not with exercise but by mere manipulation of diet, supplements and trial-error experiments. What makes the difference is, without any doubt, your weight and more precisely, your body fat. I’ll post that correlation for me as a response to one of your tweets just you’re interested in the graph. I also track my HRV often, and I’ve done a few experiments with that too (even how “sex” works on your vagal system!! =:-O ;-))

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