A recent study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston indicates that elderly people are just as able to synthesize muscle from protein as younger people are.
The study compared the rate at which study participants built muscle protein after consuming a four-ounce serving of lean beef. Ten elderly volunteers were compared to ten younger volunteers, by analyzing blood and muscle samples during the five hours after the beef was consumed. Results showed that both groups increased muscle protein creation by +50%.
Since people lose muscle mass as they age, it is good news to learn there is no reason they cannot continue to build new muscle as long as they eat protein. However, elderly people often do not eat enough protein due to various reasons (loss of chewing ability, cost, decline in appetite, etc.). This study shows it is very important to continue to include sources of protein in one's diet on a regular basis.
This is particularly important for vegetarians, since their protein must come from other sources than meat, fish or poultry. Including soy, beans, and other protein sources in the diet is crucial.
Of course, lack of exercise is another factor leading to loss of muscle mass in the elderly. As a Baby Boomer (or "Aging Baby Boomer" as they keep calling us now) I was excited to find out that eating meat, one of my favorite foods, might help me stave off loss of muscle tone. However, I guess I still have to exercise. There's never an easy solution, it seems.