As we age, our body composition changes: body fat increases, muscle mass decreases, bone mineral density declines, and visceral fat accumulates. While these changes are a normal part of aging, they can impact our overall health and quality of life. Thus, managing these body composition changes effectively becomes essential to achieve healthy ageing.

But how do we achieve healthy ageing amidst these changes? Well, ensuring adequate daily nutrient intake is essential for aging gracefully. While a well-balanced diet is the primary source of essential nutrients, dietary supplements can play a vital role in filling nutritional gaps and ensuring we meet our body’s needs.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the profound impact of dietary supplements on body composition and how strategic supplementation can help counteract the effects of ageing.

Healthy Ageing and Dietary Supplements

Before we explore the impact of dietary supplements on body composition, let’s first establish a foundational understanding of healthy ageing. Healthy aging isn’t just about growing older—it’s about thriving as we age, minimizing the risk of diseases and disabilities, maintaining our physical and cognitive vitality, and embracing life with vigor.

But how do we achieve this state of healthy ageing? Achieving healthy aging is closely tied to nutrition. While a balanced diet is the main source of essential nutrients, dietary supplements fill gaps, especially in populations with specific needs. Older adults may require supplements due to decreased nutrient absorption, while pregnant women benefit from folate and calcium supplements. Medications can also interfere with nutrient absorption, and those with restricted diets may find supplementation beneficial.

Doctor recommending supplements to patient in clinic

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our bodies, possessing anti-inflammatory properties that aid in fat reduction and muscle preservation. The recommended dosage ranges from 200mg to 800mg (Malaysia Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) 2017), with natural sources including fatty fish like salmon and plant-based options like chia seeds. However, for those with allergies or limited access to these foods, fish oil or algae-derived supplements provide a convenient option.

In a recent intervention study, participants consuming omega-3 supplements experienced significant improvements in body composition, with increased Skeletal Muscle Mass and decreased Body Fat Mass observed within three months. These findings underscore the transformative potential of omega-3 fatty acids in improving body composition.

Omega 3 fatty acid food source and supplement

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements are frequently recommended to support muscle building, tissue repair, and enhance muscle strength. According to the Malaysia Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of 2017, the daily protein requirement stands at 0.8g per 1kg of body weight. While this target is typically achievable through dietary sources such as eggs, fish, chicken, nuts, and legumes, certain groups, like athletes or older adults, may find it challenging to meet their protein needs solely through food. In such cases, supplements become invaluable aids. The most common protein supplements include whey protein for animal-based options and pea or soy protein for plant-based alternatives.

In a study involving obese elderly individuals with sarcopenia, researchers investigated the effects of combining whey protein supplements with exercise to improve body composition. Notably, participants who consumed whey protein experienced a significant increase in lean tissue and a reduction in fat mass. This highlights the potential benefits of incorporating whey protein supplements alongside exercise to enhance body composition.

Food source and supplements for protein

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a supplement that has garnered increasing attention in recent years. This enzyme functions as an antioxidant, protecting our cells from damage, and has been studied for its potential benefits in cancer prevention and combating muscle depletion. While the human body naturally produces Coenzyme Q10, its levels decrease with age, making external supplementation necessary. Natural sources of Coenzyme Q10 include fatty fish, muscle meat, organ meat, legumes, nuts, and nut oil. However, the amounts obtained from these foods are often insufficient to significantly boost its levels in the body, highlighting the need for supplementation.

A recent research paper investigated the effects of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation on body composition. The intervention group showed a significant increase in Fat-Free Mass and Body Cell Mass (BCM), and a significant reduction in inflammatory markers, suggesting that the supplementation enhanced overall health.

Food source and supplement for coenzyme Q10

Vitamin D + Calcium

Vitamin D, when paired with calcium, plays a crucial role in supporting bone health. It can be obtained from various sources such as sunlight, fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), fortified dairy products, and egg yolks. Calcium, on the other hand, is found in foods like dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), leafy green vegetables (kale and broccoli), almonds, and fortified plant-based milks. However, for individuals who may not get enough of these nutrients from their diet alone, vitamin D and calcium supplements can be an effective alternative.

A study demonstrated the significant impact of combining vitamin D and calcium on bone density. Subjects who took these supplements experienced marked improvements in their bone mineral density. These findings highlight the benefits of this supplement combination in maintaining and improving bone health.

Food source and supplements for vitamin d and calcium

Probiotic

Probiotics are commonly associated with benefits to immune function, gut health, and digestion, but did you know they are also being studied for their potential to reduce body fat? Numerous studies have explored the efficacy of probiotics in weight management, revealing promising results.

In a study involving a pre-obese population, probiotic supplementation was found to aid in fat reduction and muscle improvement. Graphs depicting the intervention period showed significant decreases in Percent Body Fat, Body Fat Mass, and Visceral Fat Area compared to the placebo group. Additionally, there was a significant increase in muscle mass among those who consumed probiotics. These results suggest that probiotics may play a valuable role in improving body composition.

Food source and supplement for probiotic

Conclusion

In conclusion, supplements have been shown to support overall health, which can contribute to healthy ageing and better body composition. However, while supplements may aid in healthy ageing, it is equally crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle by practicing healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

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