Demand of protein in an older adult’s diet

Advancing age and retirement mandates a paradigm shift in most aspects of life including mundane ones. When the elderly, shielded from the daily grind, while letting their hair down and reminiscing their salad days often tend to ignore some critical precautions. This can be detrimental, even if in an insidious and silent manner. One such area is their diet and more specifically their protein intake.

Protein, that precious soup of vital amino acids acquires great significance as one ages. Loss of skeletal muscle mass with age is an established and natural phenomenon which can impact longevity and quality of life. To arrest this aspect of ageing called sarcopenia, and maybe even reverse it, protein in appropriate amounts is of paramount importance.

Older adults need to eat more protein rich foods when losing weight, dealing with acute or chronic illnesses or facing hospitalization, according to a consensus amongst scientists. Ageing bodies process proteins less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions. Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger to preserve muscle mass.

It is estimated that 40% of seniors do not get the required protein in their diets due to a host of factors such as reduced appetite, dental problems, impaired taste, difficulty swallowing and financial constraints. This along with a sedentary lifestyle makes a potent combination to put them at the risk of deteriorating muscles, compromised mobility and slower recovery from illnesses.

So how much proteins should seniors consume? We are familiar with the established RDA which suggests that to stay healthy one needs to consume 0.8 to 1 gm of protein per Kg of body weight, but older adults were rarely included while establishing RDA.

After reviewing additional evidence, a trans national group of physicians and nutrition experts in 2013 recommended that healthy older adults consume 1 to 1.2 gm per kg of body weight or anywhere from 25 to 40% more that the RDA. These recommendations were then embraced by the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. For seniors with acute or chronic illnesses this figure went up to 1.2 to 1.5 gm per Kg of body weight. It is also recommended to spread the protein intake well over meals.

Ideally, the entire protein requirement should be met with through diet but that may not be always possible, requiring supplementation. Whether the source of protein is plant or animal based does not matter.

While choosing from a plethora of options available for supplementing, apart from the protein in the formulation, it would be apt if additional ingredients that help deal with other impairments due to ageing are also present. A perfect combination would have adequate whey protein along with vitamins and minerals and which is sugar free. In fact, there is one formulation, Super Whey from NRoute that along with the above has BCM95 which helps improve joint health, cognitive function, liver and urinary support, mood elevation and stress reduction and has anti-inflammatory properties.

With offerings like Super Whey to assist, ageing is no more about walking into the sunset, its striding forth purposefully and confidently.