This nutrient is critical to health in older people

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A recent study from the University of Sheffield found that more than half of older people in South Yorkshire don’t consume enough protein to stay healthy.

They found that meat, fish, and dairy contributed to 86% of protein intake for the participants.

But less than 50% of participants met current UK recommendations of consuming 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight per day (around 53 grams for a man and 46 grams for a woman).

The study is published in Geriatrics. One author is Dr. Bernard Corfe, Senior Lecturer in Oncology and Principal Investigator in Molecular Gastroenterology.

The team assessed the diets of 256 older adults aged between 65 and 89 years old in the South Yorkshire area.

They used two existing datasets that had extensive and valuable information about the dietary intake of older adults in the region.

However many experts believe that older adults need higher protein intake than the UK recommendations, with international organizations suggesting 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

Less than 15% of the study group met this age-specific recommendation.

It has also been shown that older adults need to consume 25-30 grams of protein at each of their three daily meals to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Only one participant in the study was achieving this, with other participants eating lower levels of protein-rich foods in the morning in particular.

The team says protein consumption, especially when combined with exercise, helps to slow down the loss of muscle mass and strength that comes with aging.

Inadequate protein intake contributes to muscle wastage, impacting physical function and increasing the risk of frailty and mortality through falls.

This risk is again increased in older adults with obesity, who may be unable to exercise or move freely, as their weight may mask the problem.

The team suggests old people could benefit from increasing their daily protein, especially in the morning when consumption was low.

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