Scientists believe they may be close to finding a solution to muscle deterioration in older people.
Researchers at the University of Texas examined the differences between how blood vessels behaved in young and old people after they ate a nutritious meal.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, indicated that when a young person eats, insulin is released into the blood stream, causing vessels to dilate.
However, this process appears to be inhibited in older people, which prevents key nutrients from reaching muscles, which may contribute to deterioration.
By mimicking this response in younger study participants by blocking vasodilation, scientists demonstrated that muscles weakened as a result.
Commenting on the findings, senior author Elena Volpi said: "This research really demonstrates that vasodilation is a necessary mechanism for insulin to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
"Eventually, if we can improve muscle growth in response to feeding in old people by improving blood flow, then we're going to have a major tool to reduce muscle loss with aging."
Muscle degeneration can also be genetic, as well as linked to old age.
Research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in November indicated that scientists are a step closer towards beginning clinical trials to test a gene strategy which could improve muscle mass in patients with degenerative muscle disorders.
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