Protein nutrition for optimal muscle health and function in older yearsSymposium Presentation
The loss of muscle mass and strength with advancing age is inevitable. Called sarcopenia when a low threshold is reached, this loss may lead to functional decline, frailty, disabilities and loss of autonomy. Insufficient protein intake is thought to be one of the possible contributing factors.
An imposing body of evidence from large cohort and metabolic studies shows that higher protein needs are required to prevent or attenuate sarcopenia in older adults, supporting the expert consensus for revising recommendations upwards. Higher needs are explained by a state of anabolic resistance due in part to sedentarity, inflammation and insulin resistance.
Apart from quantity, the quality and the distribution of protein among daily meals may also be important. Our group has analyzed the distribution of protein intake from free-living older adults of the Quebec longitudinal study on aging, NuAge. We found that a more even mealtime protein distribution was associated with higher lean mass and muscle strength at baseline and over 3 years of follow-up in both men and women, but was not related to mobility. Pending confirmation from intervention studies, these findings (with others) have implications in establishing future protein recommendations specifically for older adults, together with physical activity, to maintain optimal muscle health.