Show of strength: Abbott drives muscle health awareness in Singapore through hawker initiative

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

ENSURE Life Dairy Alternative contains plant-based protein blend from soy, organic brown rice, and quinoa.  ©Abbott
ENSURE Life Dairy Alternative contains plant-based protein blend from soy, organic brown rice, and quinoa. ©Abbott

Related tags Abbott sarcopenia Muscle

Abbott is promoting public awareness on muscle health in Singapore through an initiative targeting food hawkers, amid concerns that consumers have less awareness of the condition compared to other ageing-related difficulties.

As part of the initiative, the company is distributing a starter kit consisting of its flagship oral nutrition supplement ENSURE in sachets and leaflets on nutrition tips to build physical health.

ENSURE contains beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), an ingredient that has been shown to slow down muscle breakdown and support the building of muscle tissue.

A metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine, HMB is found in small amounts in the body and foods such as avocado and cauliflower.

The formula also consists of protein, 34 nutrients such as vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium, omega 3,6,9, and the prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides. 

ensure life hmb
Ensure Life HMB

Abbott started public campaigns on muscle health three years ago through its Stand4Strength challenge – where the public is encouraged to find out their muscle age by doing the 5-times-sit-to-stand test and using the ENSURE Muscle Age Calculator.

The test requires participants to sit to stand five times with arms folded. The aim is complete the drill as fast as possible. After which, the participants can enter the time taken, their gender, and age into the muscle age calculator.

Abbott’s latest initiative is targeted at the food hawkers, in partnership with the Federation of Merchants’ Associations Singapore (FMAS). 

So far, there is a growing awareness of sarcopenia and muscle health among Singapore’s healthcare professionals and consumers.

However, it is still lower than dementia and other ageing-related conditions, Anna Jacob, nutrition director at Abbott Singapore told NutraIngredients-Asia.

“While awareness of sarcopenia amongst the public in Singapore may not be as well-known as other ageing-related conditions such as dementia, many are starting to learn about the key role that muscles have in preserving strength and energy and how it contributes to the individual’s ability to live a healthy life with age.

“Our initiatives such as the Ensure Stand4Strength challenge have also sought to drive an increase in public awareness for the importance of muscle health through the continuum of life and care.

“Awareness has been on the rise in both consumer and healthcare professionals spaces,” ​she said.

Vanilla preferred

ENSURE exists in five flavours in Singapore and vanilla is the most popular flavour, according to Jacob. 

The other flavours are wheat, chocolate, coffee, and strawberry.

Aside from different flavours, the company has also developed different dosage formats, as well as using exploring dairy alternatives.

For instance, it launched ENSURE Life Dairy Alternative, which contains plant-based protein blend from soy, organic brown rice, and quinoa. The product comes in the almond flavour.

On top of this, the product is also available in a RTD version for convenience.

Muscle health and immunity

Muscle health is also linked to the immunity, as the immunity is affected if an older adult loses more than 10 per cent of his lean body mass, Jacob pointed out.  

“Based on existing research, muscles produce and release compounds which play an important role in the proliferation, activation and distribution of some immune cells. And while additional research is needed, data suggests loss of muscle mass is associated with compromised immunity and infections.

“Research in older adults has shown increased markers of inflammation associated with low muscle mass and muscle function.

“Finally, muscle is as a major storage site for amino acids that are used by the body during a trauma or infection. Therefore, low muscle mass coupled with inadequate protein intake may affect the body’s response to an injury or infection,”​ she said.

So far, it was shown from a clinical trial on how elderly at risk of malnutrition had experienced a significant increase in weight, BMI, leg, and handgrip strength after consuming ENSURE for six months.

Titled the SHIELD study (Strengthening Health In ELDerly through nutrition), the trial was conducted with Changi General Hospital and SingHealth Polyclinics.

Findings of the study were published in Clinical Nutrition. 

The study also showed ​that there is a high prevalence of low muscle mass among four in five older adults at risk of malnutrition.

This might in turn affect overall health and immune function, Jacob said.

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