Aged Care Research

Inflammatory diets linked to ageing muscle loss


A new study from the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) suggests older Australians can help preserve strength and mobility in later years through attention to anti-inflammatory diets.

The research, published in Nutrients, found associations between high inflammatory food intake and greater muscle deterioration among people over 65. Participants reporting diets higher in inflammation showed reduced mass and function compared to those consuming more anti-inflammatory foods.

Lead author and UniSC PhD graduate Corey Linton said the findings highlight nutrition’s impact on musculoskeletal health in ageing populations. As chronic conditions like sarcopenia (progressive loss of muscle tissue) rise, small diet changes could help seniors maintain strength for daily tasks.

“While there is ample research into other factors influencing muscle health, from exercise to genetics, this study examined associations with people’s diets, in particular with foods considered inflammatory or anti-inflammatory,” Linton said.

“The findings reinforce Australian nutrition guidelines which recommend that we all eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit daily and balance our diets as much as possible.”

Over 200 Australian older people ages 65-85 recorded nutritional intake for the study. Participants noted foods with anti-inflammatory effects like produce, herbs and spices alongside inflammatory items such as processed meats. Researchers then examined muscle health markers – strength, walking ability and density.

Clear associations emerged between greater inflammatory food levels and poorer muscle scores. Seniors eating more produce, fish and plant-based dishes showed better strength, gait and dexterity on average.

Study co-author and UniSC nutrition expert Dr Hattie Wright added the “modifiable” role of food could be leveraged further. As Australia’s over-65 population grows, understanding lifestyle influences on strength and capability will be key.

“With an ageing population, it is vital to understand what people can do to maintain their independence, health, and quality of life as they grow older,” Dr Wright said.

The research was funded through a partnership between UniSC and Sunshine Coast Council.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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