Protein is an important part of a healthy diet for anyone but as we get older it becomes more and more important to get sufficient amounts. This is because it's key to preventing age related muscle loss (sarcopenia).
Frailty among older adults is a growing problem. It can affect peoples' ability to carry out everyday activities, have a negative impact on quality of life and increase the risk of other health problems. Under UK government recommendations GPs are required to have systems in place to help identify people living with frailty. But how to provide effective care and support once people are identified is another issue.
Sarcopenia is expected to increase worldwide
With the rising elderly population, the number of older population with sarcopenia is expected to increase worldwide, and it is becoming one of the important public health concerns and interests.
We begin to lose lean muscle in our 40's and without regular activity that includes all muscle groups as wel as consuming adequate amounts of protein daily, older adults become weaker. Putting it another way, lean muscle mass generally contributes up to approximately 50% of total body weight in young adults, but declines with ageing to about 25% at 75–80 years old.
Protein is the most valuable food for repairing and building muscle fibers. A person who weighs 150 pounds or 67.5 kilograms should aim for about 81 grams of protein per day. Most meat, poultry and fish have about 7 grams of protein in an ounce. One cup of milk or one egg has about 8 grams of protein.
Max Gowland, founder of the supplements brand for the over 50's Prime Fifty, says:
"Additional supplemental protein in the diets of older adults seems to be very misunderstood..
"Age related loss of muscle (sarcopenia) can start in the forties and speeds up with age meaning that over 25% of one's lean muscle can be lost before 65yrs!
"The real science has shown without doubt that older adults actually need more protein than their younger counterparts, largely as a result of a greater propensity to lose muscle mass rapidly when sedentary.
"Older adults possess a certain anabolic resistance which, combined with the catabolic effect of being sedentary, can lead to significant loss of muscle mass, muscle function, strength and crucially balance too. Falling over is such a common accident in older adults and it must be said that the outcome from hip fracture surgery is, unfortunately, poor.
Let's also put to bed the internet stories where supplemental protein is believed to cause kidney problems and also even remove calcium from our bones...both these are myths according to studies. The health benefits of protein are huge and even more significant as we age."
Vitamin D deficiency associated with sarcopenia
Many studies have shown that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with lower muscle strength, increased body instability, falls and disability in older subjects. Vitamin D deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency for older adults regardless of race or ethnicity.
Low vitamin D levels have been associated with sarcopenia and supplementation of vitamin D in individuals with low levels can help improve muscle function and muscle mass.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.