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Seniors: focus on protein to stay in shape

seniors protein As we get older, we often experience a decrease in our muscle strength, a phenomenon which in 2009 was attributed by scientists to a loss of lean body mass1. Lean mass includes the body’s muscle mass but not its fat mass. A number of studies have since been conducted to try and counter this age-related decline in muscle power. One such study, published in 2017 in the well-known journal Nutrition, underlines the importance of adequate protein intake for staying in, or getting back into, good shape2.

Role of protein in maintaining muscle strength

Although protein intake is recognised as essential for good muscle function, the researchers behind this study noted that for older people keen to stay in good physical shape, no recommended daily intake for protein has been defined. To measure the importance of protein intake in older people, they investigated a group of 50 elite senior athletes - 38 men and 12 women, aged 68-74 - all of whom had taken part in the European Master Games in 2011. Subjects were divided into two groups according to their protein consumption which was evaluated by means of a questionnaire and confirmed by their urinary-urea-nitrogen to urinary-creatinine ratio. The researchers then measured various parameters such as body composition and muscle strength.

Importance of adequate protein intake

A number of similarities were noted between the two groups of senior athletes. Despite variations in protein intake, they were homogenous for lean mass index, body fat and glomerular filtration rate. However, significant differences were observed in muscle strength. Measured via muscle extension movements, those subjects who ate more protein were found to have greater muscle strength, particularly in leg and trunk muscles. The researchers concluded that adequate protein intake, when combined with regular exercise, may help older people stay in good physical condition.

This study reinforces the fact that ageing is not synonymous with impaired function. Solutions are available to combat age-related health problems, including sarcopenia which is characterised by a decrease in muscle mass and strength. Fostered by a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition, this condition can be kept in check by staying physically active and ensuring good nutrition. In this context, this new study confirms the importance of adequate protein intake for staying fit and healthy, whatever your age. Protein supplements are popular with sportspeople of all levels and can be a valuable aid to staying in good physical condition.

> Sources :
1. Debashish K. Dey, et al., Changes in body composition and its relation to muscle strength in 75-year-old men and women: A 5-year prospective follow-up study of the NORA cohort in Göteborg, Sweden, June 2009, Volume 25, Issue 6, Pages 613–619.
2. Filippo Giorgio Di Girolamo, et al., A higher protein intake is associated with improved muscle strength in elite senior athletes, Nutrition, Available online 15 May 2017.
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