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As the battle against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue this 2021, good health and strong immunity are proving to be of utmost importance.

You may have resorted to taking vitamin C religiously, among other health supplements. A new study, however, suggests another way to improve immunity—taking care of muscle health.

In what is considered the largest oral nutritional supplement trial of its kind in Asia, Changi General Hospital, SingeHealth Polyclinics, and Abbott have found that “loss of muscle mass is associated with compromised immunity and infections.”

The Singapore-conducted study, called SHIELD (Strengthening Health In ELDerly through nutrition), reveals that older adults have shown increased markers of inflammation associated with low muscle mass and muscle function.

“[As] muscles produce and release compounds, [it] plays an important role in the proliferation, activation, and distribution of some immune cells. Additionally, muscle is a major storage site for amino acids that are used by the body during a trauma or infection,” an Abbott press release explains. “Immunity is affected if an older adult loses more than 10% of their lean body mass, while a decrease of more than 30% can make them susceptible to pneumonia.”

How, then, can you improve your muscle health? Read on.

Exercise regularly

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, and include resistance training to also help maintain muscles and strength.

Eat enough protein

Incorporate protein foods, like chicken, seafood, eggs, beans or dairy into your diet, and aim for about 20-30 grams per meal. Adults 65 years and above may need up to 50% more protein than younger adults. 11 To increase your protein intake further, add in protein snacks, like one before bed or supplement your diet if needed.

Eat nutritious meals

Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that contain proteins, healthy fats and key vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D.

Consider HMB

Hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB) is a naturally occurring compound that supplementation has been shown to preserve muscle mass in healthy older adults. Along with exercise, HMB can also help improve muscle quality and function in older adults. HMB can be found in very small amounts in foods such as avocados, grapefruit, and catfish, so taking it through supplements helps.

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