Protein at all 3 meals may help preserve seniors’ strength
Eating protein at all three daily meals, instead of just at dinner, might help seniors preserve physical strength as they age, new research suggests.
The Canadian study found that protein-rich meals evenly spread throughout the day staved off muscle decline, but did not increase mobility, in older people.
Study co-author Stephanie Chevalier said, for seniors, “The important point is to create three meal occasions with sufficient protein to stimulate muscle building and greater strength, instead of just one.”
Chevalier is an assistant professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
The functional decline associated with aging often leads to falls, mental impairment and loss of independence. Chevalier’s team wondered if more evenly distributed protein consumption might be tied to better physical performance and a reduced rate of decline.
To find out, they tracked more than 1,700 relatively healthy Quebec men and women, aged 67 to 84, who were all enrolled in a three-year study.
The participants provided dietary information and underwent yearly hand, arm, and leg strength testing. They were also tested for mobility.
Over the three years, the researchers found that both men and women saw their overall physical performance worsen, with muscle strength fading more significantly than mobility.
But those who consumed protein more evenly throughout the day appeared to retain greater muscle strength—though not greater mobility—than those who consumed most of their protein late in the day.
However, Chevalier stressed the researchers only observed an association between protein distribution and muscle strength, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
“In other words, we cannot conclude that older people had greater strength because they were ingesting protein evenly distributed at every meal,” she said.
Establishing direct proof would require more research, she said.
Still, the study finding held up regardless of the total amount of protein consumed, she noted.
Source: Medical Xpress