It is well known that physical frailty is highly prevalent among older adults. A recent study has shown that people with early frailty and decrease in muscle mass can enhance both muscle mass and chair-stand time over a duration of 13 weeks. Improvements in handgrip strength and gait speed were also shown. These findings support the research reports that nutritional support, either by itself, or in combination with exercise, can greatly influence the improvement of muscle function in frail older adults.
Whey protein was the major component of the nutritional supplement that was studied. Whey is a protein supplement fortified with essential amino acids and a high concentration of leucine. A higher protein intake as a means of treating sarcopenia has been recommended for people with sarcopenia, and this concept has been support by many experts in the field. A decreased sensitivity of old muscles calls for the need to be given protein at least twice a day.
One of the primary components of frailty is weight loss. Many older adults struggle with anorexia and weight loss, especially nursing home residents. Nursing homes can provide caloric supplementation to improve outcomes in these older residents. A nursing home study in Finland reported that whey protein supplement slowed the rate of muscle loss and diminished the need for physical assistance.
Currently, there is a substantial amount of evidence that a leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplement can be beneficial for frail older adults with sarcopenia. Evidence has also shown that the addition of exercise also improves the trajectory of frailty. Long-term care facilities should encourage their residents to participate in appropriate physical activities that have shown to be successful in improving muscle mass, as well as provide nutritious meals for their residents that cater to their specific needs. These care facilities should strive to enhance their residents’ quality of life by incorporating services and care that aim to improve frailty and sarcopenia.