Institut du Vieillissement, Universite Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, 37 Allees Jules Guesde, 31000 Toulouse France.
The term "sarcopenia" describes the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. It represents a major risk factor for functional loss and disability in older persons. Multiple underlying pathophysiological mechanisms have been posed at the basis of the sarcopenia phenomenon, including intrinsic (e.g., age-related modifications of the skeletal muscle, the central nervous system, and hormones) and extrinsic (e.g., sedentariness, poor protein dietary intake) factors.
Several interventions have been explored in the last years to counteract the age-related muscle decline. These include protein supplementations, physical exercise, testosterone replacement (as well as other anabolic androgens) in men, estrogen replacement in women, growth hormone replacement, and treatment of vitamin D deficiency. To date, adequate protein intake and resistance training are the most promising interventions able to prevent and/or delay the decline of muscle mass and function.
An intense debate is currently ongoing about the best operational definition able to capture the complexity of this aging condition. In the context of identifying the optimal treatment for a specific condition, this is not a trivial issue because it sets the target of the intervention as well as the population at risk. Nevertheless, despite the current methodological issues, it is important to preliminarily test the possible strategies that might be implemented in the future, when the sarcopenia condition will finally be more univocally defined and its clinical relevance recognized.
Aim of the present review is to describe and discuss available evidence about the possible interventions potentially serving at acting against sarcopenia. Pharmacological as well as non-pharmacological interventions are presented.