Could chocolate and oranges help prevent frailty in old age?


A study which hopes to establish the health benefits from cocoa and vitamin C is looking for volunteers.

Researchers at The University of Nottingham are trying to find ways of helping us maintain muscle mass as we grow old and want to hear from healthy men aged between 18–28 and 65–75.

The £270,000 Chocolate Orange Study, funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, is being run by Beth Philips a postgraduate research associate in the Department of Clinical Physiology. The department is a world leader in the research of skeletal muscle, with a focus on muscle protein synthesis and degradation.

Using state-of-the-art technology — a contrast enhanced ultrasound machine — Beth is monitoring the impact of cocoa and vitamin C on the amount of blood flow that reaches the muscle in both fasted and fed conditions.

In the UK there are now more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 18. It is projected that by 2033 the number of people aged 85 and over will reach 3.2 million — that will account for five per cent of the population.

Falling is one of the major causes of premature death in elderly people. From the age of 50 onwards we lose up to 0.4 per cent of our muscle mass every year. This makes us less mobile, more prone to fractures and at higher risk of a potentially life-threatening fall.

Beth said: “There is a well-established correlation between premature mortality and muscle mass loss in the elderly. We have shown that as we age the blood flow to our legs in response to feeding is impaired. This means that fewer nutrients and oxygen are able to reach our muscles which may contribute to muscle wasting and ultimately frailty. We want to know if cocoa and vitamin C can help slow down this deterioration.”

The study needs 10 men from the younger age group and 30 men from the older age group. Each volunteer will undergo a detailed health check before being accepted onto the study which will take just one day to complete. The study will involve the insertion of four fine canulae for blood sampling, four muscle biopsies and the previously mentioned contrast-enhanced ultrasound measures to assess any changes in blood flow to the leg muscles.

The tests will be carried out in Derby at the University’s School of Graduate Entry Medicine and each volunteer will receive a £150 inconvenience allowance.

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