Could Eating More Protein Keep Your Parent’s Muscles Strong?

Posted: 8/29/2017 9:43 AM by Interim HealthCare
As people age, they naturally experience sarcopenia – a fancy word for muscle loss. On average, people lose between 8 and 50 percent of their muscle mass as they age. Men tend to lose muscle faster. The problem with muscle loss is that it can lead to mobility problems, which can sometimes lead to older adults losing their independence. However, research shows that eating more protein may help reduce the rate at which muscle is lost, allowing seniors to remain independent longer.
Why is Protein Important?
Protein is one of the building blocks necessary for healthy tissue. In fact, protein is present in every cell in the body. Studies have shown that eating protein slows muscle loss. In one study, researchers followed more than 1,700 men and women who were aged 67 to 84 over the course of three years. Over the years, all of the participants experienced muscle loss. However, those participants who ate protein at all three meals during the day lost less muscle strength. Researchers believe that the results were due not only to the participants eating protein, but also that they spread their protein consumption throughout the day. Muscle protein is broken down continuously, so that the body needs more protein to rebuild tissues. Researchers think that eating protein at all three meals allows the body to maintain a “positive protein balance.”
How Much Protein?
In 2002, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake was set at 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight for adults aged 19 and older. However, recent research suggests that seniors may benefit from eating more—around 1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. Unfortunately, seniors often don’t meet the current RDA for protein, let alone reaching the higher amount. This may be because seniors sometimes have difficulty digesting certain proteins, because meat is harder to chew, or because they simply cannot afford expensive proteins.
What Kinds of Protein?
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that the kind of protein that seniors eat may also play a role in maintaining muscle strength. Animal proteins tend to be higher in the amino acid leucine, which has been proven to help reduce muscle loss. Leucine is found in beef, pork, poultry, fish, lamb, eggs, and dairy products. It is also found in soybeans, nuts, and seeds, but not in as great of quantities.
If your parent is not currently eating enough protein, an elderly care provider can help by preparing protein-rich meals. An elderly care provider can also help your parent to create a weekly grocery list and take them shopping. If your parent is already frail due to muscle loss, an elderly care provider can assist them to move safely about the house and help them with tasks that require more strength.

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