According to a recent study, a high protein diet, particularly a diet high in animal protein, may assist older adults in maintaining a higher level of physical, psychological, and social function. The study appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 A news release from Wiley reports that recent research indicates that as people age, their ability to absorb or process protein may decline. As a result, in order to compensate for the loss, protein requirements may increase with age.

Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, PhD, MPH, RD, the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, and colleagues in Tohoku University and Teikyo University, Japan, aimed to investigate whether protein intake might impact the functional capabilities of older adults.

The researchers reportedly designed a study to assess the link between protein intake and future decline in higher-level functional capacity in older community-dwelling adults in Japan. The analysis encompassed 1,007 individuals with an average age of 67.4 years old who completed food questionnaires at the start of the study and 7 years later. The researchers then divided the participants into four groups 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.

The results indicate that men in the highest group of animal protein intake exhibited a 39% decrease chance of experiencing higher-level functional decline than those in the lowest group. The researchers add that these associations were not seen in women. No consistent link was observed between plant protein intake and future higher-level functional decline in either sex, the results suggest.

Tsubota-Utsugi emphasizes that, “Identifying nutritional factors that contribute to maintaining higher-level functional capacity is important for prevention of future deterioration of activities of daily living. Along with other modifiable health behaviors, a diet rich in protein may help older adults maintain their functional capacity.”

Source(s): Wiley, Science Daily