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.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/homemade-chocolate-in-2-minutes/) containing 1 ounce of cacao beans yields ~27 mg of epicatechin.
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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.