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Background: Loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength occurs with increasing age and is associated with loss of function, disability, and the development of sarcopenia and frailty. Dietary protein is essential for skeletal muscle function, but older adults do not anabolise muscle in response to protein supplementation as well as younger people, so called ‘anabolic resistance’. The aetiology and molecular mechanisms for this are not understood, however the gut microbiome is known to play a key role in several of the proposed mechanisms. Thus, we hypothesise that the gut microbiome may mediate anabolic resistance and therefore represent an exciting new target for ameliorating muscle loss in older adults. This study aims to test whether modulation of the gut microbiome using a prebiotic, in addition to protein supplementation, can improve muscle strength (as measured by chair-rise time) versus protein supplementation alone. Methods: The study is a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, with two parallel arms; one will receive prebiotic and protein supplementation, and the other will receive placebo (maltodextrin) and protein supplementation. Participants will be randomised as twin pairs, with one twin from each pair in each arm. Participants will be asked to take supplementation once daily for 12 weeks in addition to resistance exercises. Every participant will receive a postal box, containing their supplements, and the necessary equipment to return faecal, urine, saliva and capillary blood samples, via post. A virtual visit will be performed using online platform at the beginning and end of the study, with measures taken over video. Questionnaires, food diary and cognitive testing will be sent out via email at the beginning and end of the study. Discussion: This study aims to provide evidence for the role of the gut microbiome in anabolic resistance to dietary protein. If those who take the prebiotic and protein supplementation have a greater improvement in muscle strength compared with those who take protein supplementation alone, this would suggest that strategies to modify the gut microbiome may reduce anabolic resistance, and therefore potentially mitigate sarcopenia and frailty in older adults. Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT04309292. Registered on the 2nd May 2020.
Ni Lochlainn, M., Nessa, A., Sheedy, A., Horsfall, R., García, M. P., Hart, D., … Steves, C. (2021). The PROMOTe study: targeting the gut microbiome with prebiotics to overcome age-related anabolic resistance: protocol for a double-blinded, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. BMC Geriatrics, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-021-02301-y