We’ve always been dear friends, staunch allies, and devoted advocates for our edible friends in the plant kingdom. Whatever craziness descends upon our lives and our society, there’s sanity, indeed healthful respite in a bountiful, brimming, vibrant dinner plate of vegetables.
And now there’s even more reason for veggie veneration. Research from Tufts University funded by the Agricultural Research Service suggests that potassium-rich plant foods can help older men and women maintain their lean muscle mass.
“What?! Well, I’ll be damned.” We know! We said it too!
We’ve always loved vegetables (and their fruit compatriots) for their antioxidants, their minerals, their fiber. But this had us bowing down at the cornucopia, we have to say.
The researchers followed 384 men and women age 65 years or older for a total of three years, measuring urinary potassium excretion, which was “significantly positively associated” with the maintenance of lean muscle mass levels.
Their urinary potassium was measured at the start of the study, and their dietary data was collected at 18 months. Based on regression models, volunteers whose diets were rich in potassium could expect to have 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than volunteers with half the higher potassium intake. That almost offsets the 4.4 pounds of lean tissue that is typically lost in a decade in healthy men and women aged 65 and above, according to authors.
The researchers suggest that “net [dietary] acid load” impacts the preservation of lean muscle mass in later years. Cereals and proteins contribute to the acidity of the diet and over many years can result in a “metabolic acidosis” that the researchers say correlates with sarcopenia, or muscle loss. Fruits and vegetables, even if they are acidic themselves, are processed or metabolized by the body to alkaline “residues.” These alkaline residues appear to counteract dietary acidity and significantly lessen or prevent acidosis and associated muscle loss in older adults.
The maintenance of lean muscle mass in later years is of crucial importance for overall health and longevity. Regular resistance training and a solid intake of good quality protein are cornerstones for maintaining muscle. But now we add another dimension to the picture, and wouldn’t you know it’s one we’ve suggested (albeit for other reasons) all along. A high intake of vegetables and low glycemic fruits not only contributes to overall health, it preserves muscle. This is the sensibility behind the Primal Blueprint after all: what kept our ancestors strong and healthy for millions of years is darn likely to do the same for us moderns. There’s some food for thought to enjoy with that lunch salad!
Thoughts? Cheers? Questions? We want to hear them.