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Effects of Aging on Muscle Fibre Type and Size

Abstract

Aging has been associated with a loss of muscle mass that is referred to as ‘sarcopenia’. This decrease in muscle tissue begins around the age of 50 years, but becomes more dramatic beyond the 60th year of life. Loss of muscle mass among the aged directly results in diminished muscle function. Decreased strength and power contribute to the high incidence of accidental falls observed among the elderly and can compromise quality of life. Moreover, sarcopenia has been linked to several chronic afflictions that are common among the aged, including osteoporosis, insulin resistance and arthritis. Loss of muscle fibre number is the principal cause of sarcopenia, although fibre atrophy — particularly among type II fibres — is also involved. Several physiological mechanisms have been implicated in the development of sarcopenia. Denervation results in the loss of motor units and thus, muscle fibres. A decrease in the production of anabolic hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 impairs the capacity of skeletal muscle to incorporate amino acids and synthesise proteins. An increase in the release of catabolic agents, specifically interleukin-6, amplifies the rate of muscle wasting among the elderly. Given the demographic trends evident in most western societies, i.e. increased number of those considered aged, management interventions for sarcopenia must become a major goal of the healthcare profession.

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Acknowledgements

The author is supported by the National Institute on Aging (AG 1744C) and the Borgenicht Program for Aging Studies and Exercise Science. No potential conflict of interest exists.

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Correspondence to Michael R. Deschenes.

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Deschenes, M.R. Effects of Aging on Muscle Fibre Type and Size. Sports Med 34, 809–824 (2004). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434120-00002

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Keywords

  • Testosterone
  • Muscle Mass
  • Motor Unit
  • Satellite Cell
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule