Diets high in animal protein may help prevent functional decline in the elderly

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th March 2014
Diets high in animal protein may prevent functional decline in the elderly

A diet high in protein, particularly animal protein, may help elderly male individuals function at higher levels physically, psychologically and socially, according to a study published on 12 March 2014 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Research suggests that ageing may reduce the body’s ability to absorb or process proteins, which could mean that protein requirements increase with age. Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, PhD, MPH, RD, from the National Institute of Health and Nutrition  in Japan, and her colleagues in Tohoku University and Teikyo University Japan, investigated whether protein intake might affect the functional capabilities of the elderly.

Study method

The researchers designed a study to investigate the relationship between protein intake and future decline in higher-level functional capacity in older community-dwelling adults in the Japanese general population.

Their analysis included 1,007 individuals with an average age of 67.4 years who completed food questionnaires at the start of the study and seven years later. Participants were divided into quartiles according to intake levels of total, animal and plant protein. Tests of higher-level functional capacity included social and intellectual aspects as well as measures related to activities of daily living.

Men in the highest quartile of animal protein intake had a 39 per cent decreased odds of experiencing higher-level functional decline than those in the lowest quartile. These associations were not seen in women. No consistent association was observed between plant protein intake and future higher-level functional decline in in either sex.

“Identifying nutritional factors that contribute to maintaining higher-level functional capacity is important for prevention of future deterioration of activities in daily living,” said Dr Tsubota-Utsugi, from Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition. “Along with other modifiable health behaviours, keeping higher protein intake could contribute to maintain elderly functional capacity,” she said.

Different recent report has consistent finding

Australian Food News reported last week that a study from the University of Southern California had found that a diet high in animal proteins prompted a major increase in cancer risk and mortality in middle-aged adults. Elderly individuals, however,  had the opposite result.