Washington: Researchers have suggested that a diet high in protein, particularly animal protein, may help elderly individuals maintain a higher level of physical, psychological, and social function.
Research suggests that as people age, their ability to absorb or process protein may decline. To compensate for this loss, protein requirements may increase with age. Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, PhD, MPH, RD, of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, and her colleagues in Tohoku University and Teikyo University, Japan, wondered whether protein intake might affect the functional capabilities of older adults.
They designed a study to investigate the relationship between protein intake and future decline in higher-level functional capacity in older community-dwelling adults in Japan.
Their analysis included 1,007 individuals with an average age of 67.4 years who completed food questionnaires at the start of the study and seven years later. Participants were divided into four groups (quartiles) according to their intake levels of total, animal, and plant protein.
Tests of higher-level functional capacity included social and intellectual aspects as well as measures related to activities of daily living.
Men in the highest quartile of animal protein intake had a 39 percent decreased chance of experiencing higher-level functional decline than those in the lowest quartile. These associations were not seen in women. No consistent association was observed between plant protein intake and future higher-level functional decline in either sex.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.