The increasing recognition of sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function (muscle strength and physical performance), as a determinant of poor health in older age, has emphasized the importance of understanding more about its aetiology to inform strategies both for preventing and treating this condition. There is growing interest in the effects of modifiable factors such as diet; some nutrients have been studied but less is known about the influence of overall diet quality on sarcopenia. We conducted a systematic review of the literature examining the relationship between diet quality and the individual components of sarcopenia, i.e., muscle mass, muscle strength and physical performance, and the overall risk of sarcopenia, among older adults. We identified 23 studies that met review inclusion criteria. The studies were diverse in terms of the design, setting, measures of diet quality, and outcome measurements. A small body of evidence suggested a relationship between “healthier” diets and better muscle mass outcomes. There was limited and inconsistent evidence for a link between “healthier” diets and lower risk of declines in muscle strength. There was strong and consistent observational evidence for a link between “healthier” diets and lower risk of declines in physical performance. There was a small body of cross-sectional evidence showing an association between “healthier” diets and lower risk of sarcopenia. This review provides observational evidence to support the benefits of diets of higher quality for physical performance among older adults. Findings for the other outcomes considered suggest some benefits, although the evidence is either limited in its extent (sarcopenia) or inconsistent/weak in its nature (muscle mass, muscle strength). Further studies are needed to assess the potential of whole-diet interventions for the prevention and management of sarcopenia.
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