Eating enough daily protein may delay disability

In the journals

Published: February, 2019

Eating extra protein may protect older adults from becoming disabled and help them maintain independent lives, according to a study published online Nov. 1, 2018, by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. In the study, scientists recruited 722 85-year-olds and examined their medical data, including information like physical activity, what they ate each day, their body weight, and overall health status. Disability was measured from self-reported questionnaires in which the people described how much difficulty they had performing 17 activities of daily living, such as getting in and out of bed, dressing, bathing, doing household chores, and going up and down stairs.

The group's information was gathered again after 18 months, 36 months, and 60 months. The researchers found that consuming less than the RDA for daily protein was associated with a higher probability of being disabled. In comparison, eating 25% to 50% more than the RDA recommendation — an average of 1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day — was associated with being more independent.

The researchers theorized that the extra protein helped delay the loss of muscle mass and strength commonly seen in older adults. They also noted that the people who consumed extra protein did so over a long period, suggesting that a sudden boost in protein intake won't provide immediate results.

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