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Protein for Older Adults

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Older adults who drink protein shakes may retain more muscle and lose more fat. It’s true that high-protein shakes can help develop lean muscle mass, which is a benefit for all men and women, but it’s also true that shakes can encourage fat loss, increase satiety, deliver essential nutrients and even improve metabolic activity.

Body composition changes as people get older. One of the noteworthy alterations is the reduction in total body protein. A decrease in skeletal muscle is the most noticeable manifestation of this change but there is also a reduction in other physiologic proteins such as organ tissue, blood components, and immune bodies as well as declines in total body potassium and water. This contributes to impaired wound healing, loss of skin elasticity, and an inability to fight infection. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Protein tissue accounts for 30% of whole-body protein turnover but that rate declines to 20% or less by age 70. The result of this phenomenon is that older adults require more protein/kilogram body weight than do younger adults. Recently, it has become clear that the requirement for exogenous protein is at least 1.0 gram/kilogram body weight. Adequate dietary intake of protein may be more difficult for older adults to obtain. (Journal of the American College of Nutrition)

The loss of muscle mass and function associated with sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process) has debilitating effects on older men and women. Skeletal muscle mass, function, and quality of life are influenced by a variety of modifiable behaviors. For all adults, optimizing the potential for muscle protein anabolism (the synthesis of complex molecules in living organisms from simpler ones together with the storage of energy; constructive metabolism) by consuming an adequate amount of high-quality protein, in combination with physical activity, represents a promising strategy to prevent or delay the onset of sarcopenia. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

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