Balanced protein intake may prevent muscle loss in older people

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In a new study, researchers found that eating more protein at breakfast or lunchtime could help older people maintain muscle mass with advancing age.

But most people eat proteins fairly unevenly throughout the day.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Birmingham.

The body’s mechanisms for producing new muscle require regular stimulation to function efficiently—this stimulation happens when we eat protein.

The mechanisms are less efficient in older people, so they need to eat more protein to get the same response as younger people.

But just eating more protein is not enough, though—older people also need to spread that intake evenly across all their meals to ensure they maximize the benefits of protein for muscle mass.

In the study, the team examined the dietary intake of young, middle-aged and old-aged individuals with a particular focus on the amount, pattern and source of protein consumed.

Their results showed that, while the majority of individuals across all three groups met or exceeded current national guidelines (RDA) for protein intake, the protein intake and distribution across daily meals and snacks were very varied.

The study involved 120 participants divided into three age groups. In the first, participants had an average age of 23; in the second an average age of 51; and in the third an average age of 77.

All participants were asked to complete a food diary over a three-day period, weighing out every single food item consumed.

Researchers looked for patterns in the eating behavior of participants.

In particular, they evaluated the protein intake across the different age groups and found 18 different patterns of protein intake throughout the day, showing a wide variety of eating habits.

Most noticeably, the team found that old people, compared to young and middle-aged people, people were more likely to eat a lower-quality protein source, such as bread, at lunchtime.

The results offer compelling evidence for revised nutritional guidelines that could help older people adopt habits that spread the consumption of good quality proteins across all their meals.

The team says older individuals need to eat more protein to get the same muscle-building response as younger and middle-aged people.

Another way to help muscles make better use of dietary protein is to perform regular exercise.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Benoit Smeuninx.

The study is published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

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