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Normally nourished elderly found to have low muscle mass

Findings from a two-part study by co-investigators and study teams of Abbott, Changi General Hospital and SingHealth Polyclinics, show that females have higher prevalence.


The first of a two-part study found that one in five elderly Singaporeans, who were normally nourished and were dwelling in the community, will be at risk of sarcopenia or low muscle strength.

The SHIELD (Strengthening Health In Elderly Through Nutrition) study, which was started in 2017 and is being funded by the Singapore Economic Development Board, Changi General Hospital (CGH) and Abbott, looked at the effects of nutritional management in more than 400 community-dwelling elderly 65 years of age and over and found from Phase One of the study that there was a higher prevalence of low muscle mass in females (24.9 percent) than in males (15.5 percent).

The findings also showed that every one-year increase in age over the age of 65 was associated with 13-percent higher odds of having low muscle mass, and that even adults with normal nutritional status were at risk. It also found that 52 percent of participants had a Vitamin D insufficiency.

Panel discussion on the study findings, from left to right: Dr Low Yen Ling from Abbott; Adjunct Asst Prof Samuel Chew from CGH; Adjunct Assoc Prof Tan Ngiap Chuan from SingHealth Polyclinics; and Magdalin Cheong from CGH.

Muscle mass is an important indicator of health in the elderly. Low muscle mass is associated with adverse health outcomes and slower recovery in older people. Added Adjunct Assistant Professor Samuel Chew, senior consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, CGH and one of the authors of the study: “Most other studies have suggested that muscle mass loss is limited to those who are malnourished. However, the findings of our study show the prevalence of low muscle mass in normally nourished elderly individuals is significant as well.”

The SHIELD study will support community programmes by CGH for its patients so they can keep well, age well and get well beyond hospital to home. According to CGH, the majority of the awareness efforts for maintaining muscle mass health in the community will be spearheaded by the SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP) and supported by CGH for more serious and complicated cases in terms of more detailed investigations, review and management. It added that individuals can ask their doctors to perform simple tests to determine their muscle health such as the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) and the Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA).

The doctors then can encourage individuals to adopt a lifestyle that includes physical activity (such as exercises that build core strength and weight-bearing exercises) and the right diet, including optimal levels of protein. Added Adjunct Assistant Professor Chew: “It is well-documented in previous studies that resistance exercise training and a high protein, well-balanced diet can prevent and even reverse sarcopenia in older persons, if detected early enough.”


(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash (senior) and CGH (panel discussion))





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