Could Polyphenols Prevent Sarcopenia?

Could Polyphenols Prevent Sarcopenia?

Today, let’s talk about the role that polyphenols can play in preventing or delaying sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia, a «new» epidemic

Sarcopenia, or relative muscle mass deficit, is a silent epidemic.

Increasingly, the general population has more fat and less muscle. This, as you would expect, has direct consequences for health and quality of life.

In this way, researchers and clinicians around the world are developing strategies to prevent or delay sarcopenia.

We recommend looking at this article where it delves into sarcopenia.

Mitochondrial dysfunction

Although the mechanisms are not properly known, there seems to be one element that underlies this progressive deterioration of muscle tissue: mitochondrial dysfunction.

This abnormal functioning of our mitochondria generates increased oxidative stress in the muscle cell, which in turn generates more inflammation and slowly but progressively deteriorates muscle.


Mitochondrial malfunction stems from many situations, with the most frequent being:

  • Disuse: we are sedentary beings. We believe we can do without the movement.
  • Denervation: when a muscle is not inert, that is, it does not receive nerve afferents, this decreases its size and atrophies.
  • Malnutrition: especially protein malnutrition, since many of the anabolic signalling cascades depend on the cell’s energy status.
  • Ageing: this is the only factor that we can’t eliminate at the moment.
  • Chronic illness: within this category it is interesting to mention neuromuscular diseases that devastate muscle, such as muscular dystrophies.

Avoid sarcopenia

As we said before, part of the strategies designed to curb this epidemic are nutritional strategies.

So-called polyphenols, plant-derived bioactive compounds that seem to be interested in limiting muscle tissue loss and deterioration, appear on the scene.

How do polyphenols work in the muscle?

Polyphenols exert a beneficial effect on muscle protein synthesis and prevent protein degradation by activating signalling pathways SIRT1>PGC1a>MTOR.

Other major actions of these bioactive compounds on skeletal muscle are as follows:

  • Decreased myokines and inflammatory cytokines
  • Less oxidative stress
  • Better mitochondrial functioning
  • Attenuation of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway involved in muscle degradation by compounds such as catechins present in green tea.



The metabolic effects are noteworthy: We have the example of oligonol, a polyphenol derived from lychee, which exerts anti-diabetic anti-obesity properties and in rats with diabetes, it reduces the loss of muscle mass.

What are the potential uses of polyphenols as muscle-protective agents?

Without a doubt, potential benefits of polyphenols and their action on muscle loss come to mind, which are as follows:

  • Older people, because of age, have the greatest anabolic resistance or the lowest protein intake, to mention a few factors.
  • Sarcopenic obesity. More than 50% of the population, which is a general estimate, has excess adiposity and relative muscle deficit, and so many candidates qualify here.
  • Immobilisation through illness or injury, for example. There’s nothing like a hospital bed and not moving to damage muscle.
  • Denervation, by injuries like those that can be suffered from a traffic accident.
  • Protein malnutrition. Fortunately, this is not an issue that we see frequently in the Western world.
  • Cachexia, extreme malnutrition usually generated by a noxa disease, with cancer being the most common.

Frutas legumes

Sources of polyphenols.

What groups of polyphenols do we know?

At the moment, we know four large groups of polyphenols:

Phenolic acid derivatives

  • Gallic acid
  • Curcumin
  • Caffeic Acid
  • Hydroxytyrosol
  • Tyrosol


  • Quercetin
  • Myracetin
  • Oligonol
  • Catechin
  • Apigenin


Resveratrol being the biggest representative.


Like Magnolol.

What foods contain polyphenols?

Benzoic acidGreen tea and lots of types of fruits
Cinnamic acidCoffee and lots of vegetables
Great varietyOlive oil
FlavonesParsley, black pepper or thyme
FlavonoidsOnion, kale, tomato, broccoli or black tea
IsoflavonesLegumes, soya, tofu and miso
AnthocyaninsStrawberries, plums, red grapes, blackberries, cherries
Stilbenes (resveratrol)Cranberry and red fruits in general, grapes, peanuts
MagnololSeeds and dried fruits

Are there other molecules with similar effects?

Other molecules with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects include melatonin, coenzyme Q10, creatine, vitamin D and E.


It goes without saying that polyphenols are very interesting substances because of their bioactive properties and their role in conditions as prevalent as sarcopenia.

That said, the majority of studies that have been carried out are basic (in animals), so therefore there are many clinical trials left to be done until we can completely and strongly confirm the benefits of these substances, which on the other hand seems to be clear.

However, the following reflection comes to mind:

“…When health care workers remind us of the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables, we don’t always do it for the most obvious reasons: they provide vitamins, minerals, few calories and lots of fibre…”

We cannot forget that these phenolic compounds and many other bioactive compounds live exclusively in the plant kingdom and that:

A diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as seeds and nuts, will naturally be rich in phenolic compounds.


While a diet based on ultra-processed products will deprive you of the potential benefit of these substances in your health.

We’ll see you in the next post, keep going strong!

Bibliography sources

  1. Salucci S, Falcieri E. Polyphenols and their potential role in preventing skeletal muscle atrophy [Internet]. Vol. 74, Nutrition Research. Elsevier Inc.; 2020 [cited 2020 Feb 9]. p. 10–22.

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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