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Scientists find women can't preserve muscle like men

By Julie Bierach, KWMU

SAINT LOUIS, MO – For the first time, researchers at Washington University have shown that it's more difficult for women to preserve muscle that is lost naturally as they get older, when compared to men.

Scientists say the loss of muscle mass seems to be related to menopause and the loss of estrogen.

Researchers studied 13 men and 16 women between the ages of 65 and 80. Bettina Mittendorfer is the co-investigator of the study. She says after giving the subjects a series of muscle biopsies and a high protein meal, "What we found actually is that when you eat protein, men build muscle, and women did not. At least with the meal that we provided in our study," said Mittendorfer, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Washington University.

Mittendorfer says the loss of estrogen during menopause could be the culprit. But because of its link to breast cancer, estrogen therapy is not recommended.

"Hopefully, in the longer term future, if estrogen is involved in it, find something that is muscle specific. So it acts in muscle, but we can circumvent the potentially negative side effects that we all know of in estrogen therapy," said Mittendorfer.

Mittendorfer says the study also highlights the need for older women to eat plenty of protein, like eggs, fish, chicken and lean red meat, in conjunction with resistance exercise.

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