BACKGROUND: Ageing-related low-grade inflammation is suggested to aggravate sarcopenia and frailty. This systematic review investigates the influence that drugs with anti-inflammatory effects (AIDs) have on inflammation and skeletal muscle.
METHODS: PubMed and Web of Science were systematically screened for articles reporting the effects of AIDs on inflammation on one hand and on muscle mass and/or performance on the other.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight articles were included. These articles were heterogeneous in terms of the subjects studied, intervention components, setting, and outcome measures. Articles on older humans with acute inflammation showed evidence that celecoxib and piroxicam could reduce inflammation and improve performance and that ibuprofen improves exercise-induced muscle hypertrophy and gains in strength. In younger humans, only the effects of AIDs combined with exercise were investigated; no significant benefits of non-selective COX-inhibitors were reported, but improved strength gains with etanercept and reduced muscle soreness with celecoxib were noted. Indomethacin increased acute exercise-induced inflammation and reduced satellite cell differentiation in exercising muscle. Most articles did not systematically report occurrences of side effects.
CONCLUSIONS: Although AIDs showed significant reduction in inflammation-induced muscle weakness in older hospitalised patients with acute inflammation, robust evidence is still lacking. When combined with exercise, AIDs presented a protective effect against age-related loss of muscle mass, thus enhancing muscle mass and performance. The mechanism regulating muscle strength and its mass seems to differ between individuals of old and young age. However, the effects seem drug-specific and dose-dependent and appear to be influenced by subjects' trainability and the clinical context. In addition, the balance between benefits and harm remains unclear.