By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookie. You can find out more by following this link.

  • Nutrition

Muscle loss is a common sign of frailty and almost a third of the UK adult population believe becoming thin and frail is an unavoidable part of growing old. As a result, there is a fear of illness and dependence.1

A new survey of 2,250 people, commissioned by Abbott and supported by the Patients Association,* found that:

  • 85% worry most about not being able to care for themselves if they became frail1
  • 65% worry about a poor quality of life1
  • 47% worry about their susceptibility to illness, whilst 43% have a fear of falling over.1

In reality, frailty is not a normal consequence of ageing. By taking some simple measures, people can stay healthy and maintain their independence as they age – starting with addressing their muscle health at an earlier age.

Peak muscle mass and strength usually occur around the age of 25 years, and the amount of muscle mass gradually decreases as you age.2,3,4. Between 40‐70 years, muscle mass decreases by approximately 8% per decade and after 70 years that rate increases to 15% per decade.2‐5

Muscle strength plays a role in determining a person’s risk of falls, which can result in fractures and other injuries.6 Although losing some muscle with age is unavoidable, we can act to slow it down and mitigate its effects. Kelly Grainger, Head of Dietetics and Therapies, Leaders in Oncology Care, London emphasises the benefits of nutrition as people age:

“Getting the right nutrition is especially important as we age as it can help to prevent and slow down muscle loss. We shouldn’t accept muscle loss and frailty as an inevitable part of ageing as it can have serious health consequences, including longer recovery times, higher chances of complications or even death for people who are malnourished.”

Despite this, the survey revealed that the over 65s experience a low level of nutritional care in hospital and following discharge, which may hinder recovery and increase risks of complications:

  • 77% of people who were recovering from a recent health event were not given any nutrition support, while in hospital or after discharge1
  • Nearly a third of elderly people experience a loss of appetite following discharge, which has a significant negative impact on recovery time at home1 
  • Consequently, one year later, 26% reported that they had still not recovered from their illness.1

According to respondents over the age of 65 years, who already experience the physical signs of muscle loss, the most challenging aspects are being less physically active, lack of endurance and stamina, plus a general lack of energy.1

“Old age should be a time to be enjoyed not endured and the idea that you have to sacrifice your independence or suffer harm is a real concern” says Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association. “It’s not ageing itself which brings about frailty, but the fact that people are no longer active enough and may not be getting the right nutrition. It’s important for people to understand that, if a loved one is becoming increasingly frail and thin, this should not be ignored and written off to the passage of time. Those looking after older people in the community need to undertake regular holistic assessments of their needs and be mindful of malnutrition.”

Click here to download a PDF of our patient guide ‘Nourish Your Muscles as You Age: The Science of Strength for Healthy Living’ (1,441 KB)

Click here to find out more about the Abbott ‘I‐CARE’ initiative, developed with support from the Patients Association, to help people spot the warning signs of malnutrition in their elderly family and friends

* The Patients Association is an independent national health and social care charity established over 52 years ago, which has a long history of campaigning to ensure that the voice of patients is heard within the UK Health and Social care system.


  1. Data on file. Abbott Laboratories Ltd., 2016 (Online survey: Frailty in old age).
  2. Baier S et al. J Parenter Enter Nutr 2009;33:71‐82.
  3. Janssen I et al. J Appl Physiol 2000;89:81‐88.
  4. Grimby G et al. Acta Physiol Scand 1982;115:125‐134.
  5. Flakoll P et al. Nutrition 2004;20:445‐451.
  6. Mithal A et al. Osteoporos Int 2013;24:1555‐1566.

Privacy Policy
Terms of Use