Profile of the Department

Increasing age is accompanied by changes in body composition, such as a loss of skeletal muscle (sarcopenia) and increase in body fat. This leads to an increased risk of metabolic disease as well as reduction in physical fitness and capacity, which in turn influence quality of life and social participation in old age and increases the need for care. The underlying causes of the changes in body composition in old age are not yet clearly understood, but appear to be multifactorial and encompass hormonal, immunological and neuromuscular changes as well as lifestyle factors such as inadequate nutrition. Here, endogenous (internal) as well as exogenous (external) factors play a role: on the one hand, metabolic processes are known to change with increasing age, on the other hand, the nutrient composition of diets in old age is often inadequate. In addition, with increasing age, a decrease in immune function - known as immunosenescence - and an increase in chronic inflammation can occur. Both this inflammaging (inflammatory aging) and immunosenescence contribute to morbidity (frequency of disease). How this may lead to a change in nutritional requirements has not yet been sufficiently researched. We are therefore investigating how age and ageing processes influence nutrition, body composition and metabolism, with the help of clinical and experimental human intervention studies. Our research focus is on the complex interplay between aging processes, body composition, inflammaging and nutritional processes.




Interdepartmental Cooperation

We work on a cross-departmental basis and are involved in a number of research cooperations with various disciplines at the institute. These include, for example, the psychological expertise of the Department of Decision Neuroscience and Nutrition headed by Prof. Soyoung Q. Park. The close collaboration with the Department of Molecular Toxicology, headed by Prof. Tilman Grune, also provides us with valuable insights into intracellular proteolysis. In addition, we work closely with the Nutrition and Body Composition Working Group, which is part of the Geriatrics Research Group at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and is also headed by Prof. Dr. Norman.