Skeletal muscle is integral to the metabolism and utilisation of macronutrients; however, substantial muscle loss and morphological changes occur with ageing. These are associated with loss of muscle function and accelerate rapidly from the age of 60 years, leading to the conditions of sarcopenia and frailty. As the relationship between muscle ageing and macronutrient metabolism and utilisation has seen limited research to date, this review focuses on the interactions between skeletal muscle changes during ageing, metabolism and utilisation of fat, carbohydrates and overall energy expenditure.
Skeletal muscle contributes less to resting energy expenditure during ageing, potentially contributing to onset of obesity from middle age. Age-related changes to skeletal muscle lead to glucose dysregulation, with consequent reduction in glycaemic control, increased insulin resistance and ultimately onset of type-2 diabetes. Recent studies indicate that high total fat and SFA intake are detrimental to skeletal muscle, while higher intakes of PUFA are protective. Age-associated changes in skeletal muscle may also reduce total fatty acid utilisation.
In conclusion, further research is needed to understand the relationships between macronutrient metabolism and utilisation and age-related changes to skeletal muscle. No dietary recommendations exist specifically for skeletal muscle health during ageing, but we advise individuals to follow healthy eating guidelines, by consuming sufficient protein, fruit and vegetables, and limited SFA and to maintain physically active lifestyles. Clinicians responsible for managing type-2 diabetes need to be aware of growing evidence relating age-related skeletal muscle changes to diabetes onset and progression.