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What Is Sarcopenia?

What Is Sarcopenia? - Bariatric Fusion

In recent years, the term sarcopenia has become more widely known, especially with the increased use of GLP-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA) medications, such as Ozempic, to treat obesity and diabetes.

Often considered the silent thief of muscle strength, sarcopenia can significantly impact quality of life and overall health.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what sarcopenia is, the potential causes and risk factors, the emerging evidence regarding its association with GLP-1 RAs, and strategies to consider for prevention and treatment. 

Understanding Sarcopenia

Our bodies undergo various age-related changes, and one of the less-discussed yet significant aspects is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by the progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function.

It is associated with an increased risk of falls, physical disability, frailty, fractures, hospitalization, and mortality. Sarcopenia can affect people of any age, but it is more common and severe in older adults.

In recent years, research has shed light on the connection between certain medications, particularly GLP-1 RAs, and the risk of sarcopenia.1,2

The Role of GLP-1 RAs

GLP-1 RAs are a class of medications used primarily in the management of type 2 diabetes. They work by mimicking the action of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone that stimulates insulin secretion, inhibits glucagon release, and promotes satiety.

These medications have recently started to also be used as weight loss medications, like Ozempic and Wegovy, in supervised weight loss programs.

While GLP-1 RAs have demonstrated efficacy in improving glycemic control and reducing cardiovascular risk, recent studies have raised concerns about their potential impact on muscle health.1,2

What is the Link Between Sarcopenia and GLP-1 RAs?

GLP-1 RAs are a class of injectable drugs that stimulate the secretion of insulin and suppress the appetite, leading to weight loss and improved glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes and/or patients overweight or obese wishing to lose weight.

However, some studies have suggested that GLP-1 RAs may also have negative effects on muscle metabolism and function, potentially contributing to sarcopenia.1 The exact mechanisms of how GLP-1 RAs affect muscle are not fully understood, but they may involve:

  • Changes in how your body processes energy, influenced by what you eat, such as not getting enough nutrients or having sufficient protein intake, which can affect your ability to either build and maintain muscle (anabolic) or lose muscle (catabolic).
  • Reducing the availability of amino acids and glucose for muscle protein synthesis and energy production. When you can't get enough protein from your diet alone, your body may lack the necessary building blocks, like amino acids and glucose, to effectively build muscle and produce energy. This can happen when protein intake is insufficient and may require additional supplementation to support muscle protein synthesis and energy production.
  • Slowing down the activation of mTOR, a crucial controller of muscle growth and upkeep.
  • Boosting the production of myostatin, a protein that puts the brakes on muscle growth and repair.
  • Triggering inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle tissue, which can cause muscle protein to be used more for energy, leading to loss of muscle mass.
  • Disrupting the connection between nerves and muscles, as well as the ability of muscle fibers to contract effectively.

Additionally, individual factors such as age, gender, baseline muscle mass, and concurrent medical conditions may influence the risk of sarcopenia in individuals using GLP-1 RAs.

Prevention and Treatment of Sarcopenia Caused by GLP-1 RAs

When dealing with sarcopenia possibly caused by GLP-1 RAs, it's important to take a comprehensive approach to maintain and rebuild muscle mass, strength, and function, while also tackling the root causes of sarcopenia. Here are some potential strategies to explore:

1. Medication review and adjustment: Healthcare providers may consider adjusting the dosage and frequency of GLP-1 RA medications. Alternative diabetes management strategies that are less likely to impact muscle health may be explored with a healthcare professional.

2. Nutritional intervention: Eating right is key to keeping your muscles strong and functioning well. If you're at risk of sarcopenia, especially if you're taking GLP-1 RAs, it's important to get enough high-quality protein to help your muscles stay healthy and repair themselves. A well-rounded diet with lean proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and good fats can give your muscles the nutrients they need. You might also want to think about using a specialized nutritional supplement that's designed to support your body's metabolism and help your muscles grow stronger.3*

3. Engaging in physical activity: Participate in regular physical activity, including both resistance training and aerobic exercises. Resistance exercises, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, while aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling improve overall fitness, cardiovascular health, and physical performance.

4. Supplementation: In some cases, dietary supplements may be recommended to support muscle health. This may include vitamin D and calcium supplements to promote bone and muscle strength, particularly if there is a deficiency. Creatine supplementation has also been shown to enhance muscle mass and strength, although its use should be discussed with a healthcare provider.*

5. Lifestyle modifications: Making healthy choices in your daily life can lower the risk of sarcopenia and enhance your overall health. This means staying active, quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake, and effectively managing conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

6. Regular monitoring and follow-up: It's essential for individuals taking GLP-1 RAs and healthcare providers to monitor for signs of sarcopenia and adjust treatment strategies as needed. Regular follow-up appointments can help track progress, identify any adverse effects, and make necessary modifications to the treatment plan.


Sarcopenia, or muscle wasting, may be an inevitable part of aging and can come as a side effect of diabetes and obesity treatments, but it doesn't have to dictate quality of life. Healthcare providers should be watchful for signs of sarcopenia, especially in older adults or those with other risk factors.

By adopting a proactive approach that includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and lifestyle modifications, you can alleviate the effects of sarcopenia and maintain muscle health well into your golden years.

As we learn more about sarcopenia, ongoing research is essential to better understand and manage this common yet often underestimated condition in clinical practice.


1. Massimino E et al. Cells. 2021;10(8):1958.
2. Ma XY et al. World J Clin Cases. 2021;9(33):10064–10074.
3. Troup JP, Koscinski M. ASMBS Annual Meeting Abstract. 2024.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your bariatric surgeon or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions in regard to a medical condition. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.

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