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Nutrition & Hydration Week: Do older adults need more protein?

There are many questions surrounding nutritional health and what we should be eating more of and eating less of, especially for those in their later years. What you put into your body directly reflects the output. From weight loss, to energy levels, to dealing with illnesses, you are what you eat springs to mind!

There have been many studies over the years that have supported the idea that people in later life require more protein in their diet. Overall, this helps to preserve muscle mass, improves mobility, increases the rate of recovery, and allows for more independence for longer.


What is the right amount of protein for older adults?

The Protein Intake and Functional Integrity in Aging study looked at how much higher protein intake is linked to maintenance of muscle mass and strength in adults aged between 54-64 years over a period of two decades.

In the end, after 23 years, results showed that participants in the highest category of protein intake (92.2g a day) had 30% lower risk of loss of functional integrity, in comparison to those with the lowest intake (64.4g a day). This was measured through speed, grip strength, lower odds of falls, fractures, and frailty. Interestingly, the difference was more significant for women than men.

In addition to this, a USDA survey revealed that one in three people over the age of 65, do not have the recommended amount of protein in their diet, but what is the right amount?

The golden rule of thumb is about 1 to 1.2g per kg of body weight per day for the older generation. However, frail older adults need even more protein, with the recommended amount being 1.2 to 1.5g per kg of body weight per day. The reason for this is because protein tissue accounts for 30% of whole-body protein turnover but that rate declines to 20% or less by age 70.


What are the best sources of protein?

Now we’ve established you should be consuming more protein, let’s take a look at what BBC Good Food says are the best sources:


How much protein is too much?

Generally eating more than 2g of protein per kg of body weight per day for a long period of time can cause health problems unless you are an elite athlete. The super fit, Olympic level sports people can consume up to 3.5kg of protein per kg of body weight without any negative side effects.

Symptoms associated with too much protein include:

  • Intestinal discomfort and indigestion
  • Dehydration
  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea

In addition to these unwanted symptoms, too much protein can lead to elevated blood lipids and heart disease. This is because many high protein foods are also high in fat. Although consuming too much protein can be unhealthy, nevertheless, if you consume the recommended amount, you can reap the benefits.


How ExtraCare helps guide residents on the right dietary path

ExtraCare’s award winning in-house Wellbeing Service supports all residents to be proactive in managing their own health. Our Wellbeing Advisors are all registered general nurses, and their role is to empower residents to make informed decisions about their lifestyle and health. Everyone is always encouraged to come and speak to our team for help and support regarding their diet, and to discuss how making small changes can lead to a healthier, better life.

Prior to the introduction of the Wellbeing Service, two of our locations identified 122 previously undetected and untreated conditions amongst a population of 135 people. Some of the conditions that came up were results of poor diet.

You can learn more about our Wellbeing Service here