As you know, more and more research shows that your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, the environment in your gut where billions of healthy bacteria thrive, is really “ground zero” for your health. And the beneficial probiotic bacteria in your microbiome influence everything from your blood pressure to blood sugar.
And now, scientists have made a new discovery about the microbiome…
It may, in fact, be the key to retaining—or even building—muscle strength as you age.
I’ll tell you all about that important study in just a moment. But first, let’s go over why good muscle mass is such a critical health factor in older age…
Muscle mass and gait are key indicators of longevity
As I often report, it’s critical to maintain muscle mass throughout your lifetime. For one, strong muscles help you stay mobile and active. They even help you remain confident behind the wheel, as I explained last month.
Second, strong muscles support a healthy, brisk gait, which studies link to improved longevity.
So, to help maintain muscle mass, I always urge you to do three things…
- Adopt a healthy diet. The problem is, many American don’t eat nearly enough protein daily to maintain muscle mass as they age. Even the U.S. government’s recommendations for daily protein intake are about half of what studies show is needed. So, make sure you eat plenty of protein with every meal, including organic, full-fat dairy as well as free-range, organic meat and wild-caught seafood. These wholesome, natural foods will give your body what it needs to maintain—and even build—muscle!
- Get moving. Engage in light-to-moderate exercise every week. But remember, don’t overdo it. In fact, one major study found that 5 hours weekly is the perfect amount of exercise to get your blood pumping and vital nutrients delivered to your muscles and tissues. I personally aim for around 20 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise daily by walking, hiking, swimming, or gardening.
- Never take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. These drugs damage your muscles, organs, and mitochondria (your cells’ energy factories). New research even links them to osteoporosis, as I recently reported.
And now, thanks to this new study, I have a fourth thing you can do to support your muscles as you age…take care of your GI microbiome!
A healthy microbiome linked to strong muscle function
For this new lab study, researchers looked at the connection between the microbiome and healthy muscles in lab mice.
They put mice without any healthy bacteria in their guts (labeled “germ-free mice”) and lab mice with plenty of normal, healthy gut bacteria through a series of tests to measure muscle mass and function, including…
- A test to determine whether the mice could hold a 26-gram weight for three seconds. (The mice who completed that task went on to lift higher weights—up to 100 grams.)
- A test that measured the total distance traveled by the mice in an open setting.
- A test to measure the amount of time the mice stood on their hind legs.
- A treadmill test with gradually increasing speed from 0 to 15 meters per minute.
It turns out, the mice with the healthy microbiomes had stronger muscles that produced more energy. Meanwhile, the “germ-free mice” had:
- Reduced muscle mass and function.
- Increased expression of genes linked to muscle atrophy (wasting away).
- Problems with the function and generation of new mitochondria.
- Problems at the “neuromuscular junction,” which is where nerve cells meet the muscle fibers, telling them what to do.
However, when the researchers transplanted the healthy bacteria into the “germ-free mice,” they dramatically improved and experienced:
- An increase in muscle mass and partial restoration of muscle function.
- Partial restoration of some mitochondrial function.
- Improvement in the functioning at the “neuromuscular junction.”
Now, I know this study was conducted on mice. But the researchers say we can apply these findings to humans, too.
So, as we kick off another new year, make it a point to nourish your microbiome by adopting a balanced, protein-rich diet with plenty of:
- Full-fat dairy (including organic whole milk, cheese, eggs, and butter)
- Organic, free-range meats
- Wild-caught fish and seafood
- Olives and olive oil
- Red wine (in moderation)
These foods also have powerful “prebiotic” effects, which means they “feed” the healthy probiotic bacteria in your GI tract. (This works better than worthless probiotic supplements, as study after study shows they just don’t work. In fact, they may even cause harm!)
And remember, stay off antibiotics, too—which wipe out all the healthy bacteria in your gut—unless they are clearly necessary to prevent a more serious illness or disability.
P.S. You can learn about many more simple, natural strategies to stay vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s—and beyond—in my comprehensive online learning protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now.
“The gut microbiota influences skeletal muscle mass and function in mice.” Science Translational Medicine, 2019; 11 (502): eaan5662 doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aan5662