Researchers find how to stop muscle mass loss as you age
A team of researchers may be on the road to solving one of the top health hazards of aging. In a study published this month, researchers identified an enzyme that could lead to advancements in the preservation of muscle mass as we age.
Building off of a well-established connection between prostaglandin and muscle mass, researchers found that blocking an enzyme that breaks down prostaglandin, a type of lipid molecule, actually reversed age-related muscle loss in mice.
What are prostaglandins?
Prostaglandins are naturally occurring lipid compounds found in the human body that have hormone-like effects on us. Prostaglandins are unique in that many of their effects are contradictory, meaning that their effects can be exact opposites. For example, prostaglandin can both constrict and dilate blood vessels, open and close airways, and cause and relieve pain.
Prostaglandins, muscle growth and repair
We know from earlier research that prostaglandin aids in rebuilding broken down muscles resulting from injury. A study published in 2017 through the National Academy of Sciences shows that prostaglandins are essential for muscle regeneration.
In response to muscle damage and injury, the injury site becomes inflamed, followed by muscle repair and regrowth. This 2017 study shows that prostaglandin is a “crucial inflammatory mediator” which is key for muscle regeneration. Because of this, the study points out that taking NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), like ibuprofen and aspirin, inhibits prostaglandin in the body and seriously hinders muscle regeneration.
Prostaglandin and the Body
From period cramping to inducing labor, from healing the stomach to regenerating muscles, prostaglandin is unique in its wide range of effects on the human body. The many different effects of prostaglandin make this compound very complicated, some effects are good and some are bad. Two of the most common effects that it has on the body are cramping and inflammation.
Studies have shown that prostaglandins have a substantial influence on menstrual cramps. Prostaglandin inhibitors, like NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are often used to manage painful periods. By decreasing the level of prostaglandins in the uterus, pressure and cramping diminish.
There are many signs of prostaglandin imbalances. These can include painful periods, bowel issues, autoimmune disease, and others. These symptoms often arise from improper levels of prostaglandin. Often, medical and health blogs focus on complications arising from too much prostaglandin in the body, such as cramping, inflammation, swelling, and pain. But, it's important to recognize that not enough prostaglandin in the body can cause problems too.
Because prostaglandins are so important for muscle regeneration, one of the most common problems that arises from low levels of prostaglandin in the body is muscle degradation. Also, while it is common to use pain relievers such as NSAIDs when experiencing discomfort and pain after muscle injuries, studies show that inhibiting prostaglandin production with NSAIDs, right after injuries “hinders regeneration and compromises muscle strength,” which is the opposite of what you want to achieve.
The 2020 study referenced above identifies an enzyme (15-PGDH) that breaks down prostaglandin in the body, resulting in muscle atrophy. By inhibiting this enzyme, there was an increase in muscle mass, strength and even exercise performance. All of this, because proper levels of prostaglandin in the body were restored.
How to support healthy prostaglandin levels
It’s important to recognize that both too much and too little prostaglandin in the body can lead to health complications. The healthiest option is found by regulating and maintaining a healthy amount of prostaglandin.
Some great ways to support your prostaglandin levels:
- Magnesium to ease muscle cramps, including menstrual cramps
- Zinc, for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Ginger and Turmeric, to support a healthy inflammation response
- Evening primrose oil
- Eating a high fiber, anti-inflammatory diet
- Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine
- Control estrogen dominance
- Sleep deprivation
- Chronic stress
As with most health habits, the key is balance and moderation. And the above healthy habits will contribute not only to proper prostaglandin levels, but will lead to an overall better healthy lifestyle.
Prostaglandin is complicated. Too much causes problems, and too little causes problems. The sweet spot in between is where you want to be.
The best way to be supportive of your prostaglandin levels is aiming for and maintaining a healthy balance. This way you can avoid unhealthy extremes due to too much prostaglandin, such as excessive period pain and inflammation as well as avoid extremes due to too little prostaglandin, such as muscle degeneration and atrophy.