FILE - This Feb. 20, 2015 file photo, photo shows an arrangement of peanuts in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File) (AP)

Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes)

Recent research suggests that older adults who consume more protein are less likely to lose “functioning”


follow us in feedly
Judith Graham
January 20, 2019 10:29PM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.

Older adults need to eat more protein-rich foods when they’re trying to lose weight, dealing with a chronic or acute illness, or facing a hospitalization, according to a growing consensus among scientists.

During these stressful periods, aging bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions.

Advertisement:

Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger to help preserve muscle mass, experts suggest. Yet up to one-third of older adults don’t eat an adequate amount due to reduced appetite, dental issues, impaired taste, swallowing problems and limited financial resources. Combined with a tendency to become more sedentary, this puts them at risk of deteriorating muscles, compromised mobility, slower recovery from bouts of illness and the loss of independence.

Impact on functioning. Recent research suggests that older adults who consume more protein are less likely to lose “functioning”: the ability to dress themselves, get out of bed, walk up a flight of stairs and more. In a 2018 study that followed more than 2,900 seniors over 23 years, researchers found that those who ate the most protein were 30 percent less likely to become functionally impaired than those who ate the least amount.

While not conclusive (older adults who eat more protein may be healthier to begin with), “our work suggests that older adults who consume more protein have better outcomes,” said Paul Jacques, co-author of the study and director of the nutritional epidemiology program at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

In another study, which was published in 2017 and followed nearly 2,000 older adults over six years, people who consumed the least amount of protein were almost twice as likely to have difficulty walking or climbing steps as those who ate the most, after adjusting for health behaviors, chronic conditions and other factors.

“While eating an adequate amount of protein is not going to prevent age-associated loss of muscle altogether, not eating enough protein can be an exacerbating factor that causes older adults to lose muscle faster,” said Wayne Campbell, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University.


Judith Graham

MORE FROM Judith Graham

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aging All Salon Diet Health Health Trends Kaiser Health News Protein Science & Health Senescence

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••


Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •