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/ Source: Kaiser Health News
Older adults should eat more protein-rich foods when they try to lose weight and deal with a chronic or acute disease or face hospitalization according to a growing consensus among researchers.
During these stressful periods, aging organs treat protein less effectively and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions.
Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger to preserve muscle mass, experts suggest. However, up to one-third of older adults do not eat enough due to decreased appetite, dental problems, reduced taste, swelling problems and limited financial resources. Combined with a tendency to become sedentary, they put at risk for exacerbated muscles, compromised mobility, slower recovery from disease disorders and loss of independence.
Effect on function. Recent research suggests that older adults who eat more protein are less likely to lose "function": the ability to dress, get out of bed, walk up stairs, and more. In a 201
Although not essential (older adults who eat more protein may be healthier at first), "our work suggests that older adults who eat more protein have better results," said Paul Jacques, co-author of the study. and director of the nutrition epidemiology program at Tufts University's Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center for Aging.
In another study published in 2017 and followed up by nearly 2,000 older adults over the age of six, people who consumed the smallest amount of protein were almost twice as likely to dislike walking or climbing steps as those who ate most after adjusting for health behavior, chronic conditions and other factors.
"While eating a sufficient amount of protein, it is not to prevent age-associated loss of muscle at all, not eating enough protein can be a worsening factor that causes older adults to lose muscle faster," says Wayne Campbell, professor of nutritional science at Purdue University.
Recommended intake. So how much protein should seniors eat? The most commonly stated standard is the recommended dietary supplement (RDA): 0.8 grams of protein per day. Kg (2.2 pounds) body weight per day. Day.
For a 150 pound woman it means eating 55 grams of protein a day; For a 180 pound man, it takes to eat 65 grams.
To put it in perspective, a 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has 18 grams; half a cup of cottage cheese, 14 grams; a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken, 28 grams; half a cup of lentils, 9 grams; and a cup of milk, 8 grams. (To check the protein content of other common foods, click here.)
Older adults were rarely included in studies used to establish RDAs, and experts are cautious about this standard may not respond adequately to the health needs of the older population.
Following a review of additional evidence, an international group of doctors and nutrition experts recommended in 2013 that healthy elderly adults consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per day. Kg body weight daily – an increase of 25-50 percent over RDA. (It is 69 to 81 grams for a 150 pound woman and 81 to 98 grams for a 180 pound man.) Its recommendations were subsequently embraced by the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.
When disease is a problem. For seniors with acute or chronic diseases, the group proposed protein intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams per day. Kg body weight while noting that the exact amount required "depends on the disease, its severity" and other factors. (At a level of 1.5 grams per kilogram, a 150 pound woman would have to eat 102 grams of protein daily while a 180-pound man should eat 123 grams.) Even higher levels, up to 2 grams per day. Kilograms of body weight may be needed, it is noted, for older adults who are seriously ill or malnourished.
(These recommendations do not apply to seniors with kidney disease who should not increase their protein intake unless they are on dialysis, experts say.)
"Protein becomes much more important during events in an older adult life that forces them to a situation of muscle abuse – such as a hip or knee replacement, "says Stuart Phillips, director of the McMaster University Center for Nutrition, Exercise and Health Research in Canada.
"Higher amounts of protein have value when something in an older adult body is changing," Campbell agreed. He co-authored a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine that did not find benefits in increasing the protein intake for older men. This could be because the intervention period, six months, was not long enough. Or it could have been because the study participants had adjusted their diet and were not exposed to additional stress from illness, exercise or weight loss, Campbell said.
Per-meal amounts. Another recommendation encourages older adults to spread protein consumption evenly throughout the day. This is due to research showing that seniors are less effective at treating protein in their diet and may need a larger dose per meal.
"The total dose you eat cannot mean as much as the dose you eat at a given meal," said Dr. Elena Volpi, Professor of Geriatrics and Cell Biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. "If I eat too little protein during a meal, I cannot properly stimulate the absorption of amino acids into the skeletal muscle. If I eat too much, I say from a large T-bone steak that I can't hide it all away . "
Based on his research, Volpi suggests that older adults eat 25 to 30 grams of protein per day. meal. Virtually it means rethinking what people eat at breakfast when protein intake tends to be lowest. "Oatmeal or milk with milk is not enough; people should think about adding a Greek yogurt, egg or turkey sausage," Volpi said.
Protein in all forms is fine. Animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need; plant protein does not. If you're a vegetarian, "it just requires more work to balance all the amino acids in your diet" by eating a variety of foods, says Denise Houston, Associate Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. Otherwise, "I would typically recommend having some animal protein in your diet." As long as red meat is lean and you don't eat it too often, "it's okay," Houston said.
Grants. What about powdered or liquid protein supplements? "There is generally no need for supplements unless someone is malnourished, ill, or hospitalized," Volpi said.
In a new study, not yet published, she examined the possibility of supplementing dietary habits of older adults discharged from the hospital with extra protein for one month. Preliminary data not yet confirmed in a major clinical trial shows that "this can improve recovery from hospitalization," Volpi said.
"The first line of defense must always be real food," said Samantha Gallo, assistant director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "But if a person is unable to consume a turkey sandwich and would rather drink a protein shake during the day, then we try."
However, older adults should not routinely drink protein shakes instead of meals, Gallo warned, adding: "It is a bad idea that can actually result in reduced protein and calorie intake in the long term."
KHN's coverage of these topics is supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation and The Silver Century Foundation.