Animal protein is better for aging muscles than plant protein

Credit: Vladimir Gladkov/ Unsplash

The number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled since 2006, meaning that there are around 600,000 vegans in Great Britain.

While scientists know plant-based diets are beneficial for the environment, they don’t actually know how healthy these diets are for keeping muscles strong in elderly people.

In a study from King’s College London, scientists found on a gram-for-gram basis, animal proteins are more effective than plant proteins in supporting the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass with advancing age.

Scientists generally agree that the primary driver of muscle loss with age—at least in healthy individuals—is a reduction of muscle proteins being built from amino acids.

These amino acids come from the protein that we eat and are also formed when we exercise.

In the study, the team found that a larger dose of plant proteins is required to achieve a comparable response to building muscles

Simply transitioning from an animal-based protein diet to a plant-based diet, without adjusting total protein intake, will likely be detrimental to muscle health during aging.

A more balanced and less extreme approach to changing dietary behavior, meaning eating both animal and plant-based proteins, is best.

The team conducted carefully controlled laboratory studies in human volunteers that involve the ingestion of plants compared with animal-based protein sources.

To test changes in participants’ muscles, they use several techniques including stable isotope methodology, blood sampling, and skeletal muscle biopsies to see how quickly the muscles were building up from amino acids.

It’s important to note that this research to date has only compared two plant-based protein sources, namely soy and wheat.

The researchers in this field will be conducting further research on other promising plant proteins such as oat, quinoa and maize.

The team says this research challenges the broad viewpoint that plant proteins don’t help build muscles as much as animal protein by highlighting the potential of alternative plant-based protein sources to maintain the size and quality of aging muscles.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about plant nutrient that could help reduce high blood pressure, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Oliver Witard et al.

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