The higher need for protein in elderly people

on Aug 13, 2016

Do I need more protein in my diet?

I am sure that you have heard by now the importance of adequate daily protein intake but you wonder “is it for me”? I am not an athlete and I am not a growing teenager, how much daily protein intake do I need and do I get enough through my diet? If I am a male or a female over the age of 60, do I need to supplement my diet with extra protein?

It is very important for elderly adults to maintain good health, independence and quality of life. One of the major issues they deal with is the loss of strength due to loss of muscle mass that happens with aging. Protein is a key nutrient responsible for muscle health. Studies show that elderly adults need higher intake of amino acids to have the same anabolic effects that younger adults have with less. This lack of responsiveness in elderly can be overcome with higher levels of protein intake. An increase in protein consumption in elderly adults provides the support needed to maintain muscle mass.

A published study performed in Netherlands showed that elderly adults have lower muscle mass due to anabolic resistance to food intake. They found out that protein ingestion before sleep can help more of the ingested amino acids to be used by the body for muscle protein synthesis.

A well balanced protein shake with vitamins and micronutrients, taken at bedtime can be a great nutritional strategy to compensate for this anabolic resistance that elderly adults are experiencing. Moreover a balanced shake can help offset any other nutrient deficiencies that many elderly adults are experiencing.

How much protein is adequate?

There are many different factors that affect your need for protein. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) by the FDA or Health Canada, is set to about 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. If you are in the USA, the above recommendation translates to 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 lbs of body weight. So an average person that weights 150lbs, and who is sedentary, requires about 55 grams of protein per day. Let’s not forget that the RDA is the minimum amount you need to keep you from getting sick, not the optimum amount you need according to your needs.

Many nutritionists involved in the matter, recommend the daily intake of protein for most healthy adults to be about double of the RDA. Being over the age of 65 the question is “are you absorbing the protein you are ingesting at the same rate as a younger adult”? The answer is most probably not.

Studies from the field of pharmacology bring some light in the absorption rate in elderly people. Trying to understand the absorption of different pharmacological agents in elderly, revealed that many gastrointestinal changes occur with aging. Decreased salivary flow, decreased stomach acid secretion, decreased absorptive capacity of intestinal cells, reduced or increased gastrointestinal motility can all affect negatively the rate of absorption of nutrients.

What should you do?

Understanding the importance of higher protein intake in the elderly adults one wonders how should I increase my protein intake? Incorporating in your daily diet foods that are rich in protein such as tuna, salmon, trout, chicken or turkey, legumes nuts and eggs, can be a good start. Use organic, grass fed, or wild as much as possible when selecting your foods. Some red meat is also recommended, organic or grass fed if possible, but caution must be used if you suffer from inflammatory related health issues.

Caution should also be used if you suffer from kidney disease or high levels of uric acid when consuming animal protein. Some research shows that people with kidney disease do better with plant derived proteins than animal derived proteins. If you have a specific health issue, always consult your physician or your other qualified health professional, as to the amount of protein necessary for your needs. But if you consider yourself an overall healthy adult, you should enjoy the benefits of a protein shake such as Prolifestream daily or twice daily (one packet at bedtime) to maintain adequate levels of protein intake.

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