Protein for the aging and elderly

Why adequate protein is critical for the aging and elderly:

Protein is essential for healthy and active aging. Ironically, as we age, our body processes protein less efficiently and thus requires more of it. 

Protein helps build and repair all of our muscles. Independence is important for quality of life. Maintaining mobility is crucial for independence.  Protein supports your muscles and strength to stay active. Our organs—heart, kidneys, lungs, and others—are muscles, too! If you are not consuming enough protein, your body will take protein from your muscles.

 

Protein for the aging and elderly
Our bodies gradually make less collagen as we age, so supplementing it in your diet can be important. Image: Shutterstock

1 in 3 older adults don't consume enough protein 

Protein is a significant dietary challenge. Difficulties with cooking, reduced appetite, dental issues, impaired taste and swallowing problems make consuming adequate protein extremely difficult.  

This puts the aging population at risk for loss of muscle & bone strength, compromised mobility, weakened immune system and slower recovery from bouts of illness. This can lead to a loss of independence.

How much protein should the elderly and aging consume?

The standard recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) for body weight. As an example, for a 150-pound woman, the daily intake should be 55 grams of protein per day.

When you aren’t feeling well or you've had surgery, your body’s protein needs are even higher to help you recover properly. 

Symptoms of protein deficiency in elderly

Protein deficiency in the elderly, also known as frailty, is a very common issue. The most common protein deficiency symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Bone loss
  • Thinning hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Dry skin

Protein supplements can be an easy way to boost your daily protein intake 

Though you can get protein from most foods, it’s not always easy to manage the daily intake doses, and mostly, it also depends on your health conditions. If you are able to chew, how much of an appetite you have, and GI issues can interfere with your protein intake. 

High protein supplements are an easy and convenient way to manage your protein levels, and you can choose between different forms such as protein drinks, protein powder or protein bars. 

When looking for the best protein supplement for the aging community, we would recommend taking the following into consideration:

-If you have dental problems, liquids can often be a better option than protein bars

-If your appetite is low, look for a concentrated protein supplement. These are often 1-4oz per serving instead of 8-12oz like protein shakes. Concentrated protein drinks are quicker and easier to get down, and less filling. The Vidafuel Wellness Protein delivers 16g of complete protein (whey + collagen), all 20 amino acids and only 4g of sugar in a small 2oz shot. 

-Look for high quality and complete proteins such as whey, collagen or casein. Many recommend the best protein for seniors is whey protein. Research suggests that whey protein, is most effective for seniors struggling to rebuild muscle lost from inactivity associated with illness or long hospital stays. Whey protein is processed by the body incredibly quickly. In fact, it only takes around 20 minutes to be digested, absorbed into the bloodstream and tissues, and metabolized. Collagen is an easy to digest protein. Our bodies gradually make less collagen as we age, so supplementing it in your diet can be important. Collagen supplementation in humans is now being studied. The most recent studies have shown that collagen supplementation can increase bone mineral density, increase bone formation and reduce bone loss. [1] Another study found that collagen may help maintain lean body mass.[2] There is also evidence that collagen may help reduce joint pain.

-Pay close attention to the amount of sugar and the source of sugar. Many protein supplements and drinks have more sugar than protein! It's important to consult your dietitian for your specific needs, but our dietitians recommend sticking to 5g of sugar or less. Additionally, many protein supplements will claim zero sugar or low sugar but contain sneaky artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, neotame and saccharin. The long terms effects of these sweeteners have not been fully studied in humans yet. However, animal studies have demonstrated that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, brain tumors, bladder cancer and many other health hazards. Because of this data, our dietitians have banned the use of artificial sweeteners from all Vidafuel products.

 

1. König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women—a randomized controlled studyNutrients. 2018;10(1):97. doi:10.3390/nu10010097

2. Hays NP, Kim H, Wells AM, Kajkenova O, Evans WJ. Effects of whey and fortified collagen hydrolysate protein supplements on nitrogen balance and body composition in older womenJ Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jun;109(6):1082-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.03.003

 

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