Friday, August 10, 2007

Keep Eating Protein as You Age

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.


Femail doc said...

I always wonder who the heck volunteers for these things. Blood samples I can see, but muscle samples? What's in it for them?

The two things that have been shown to preserve lean body mass in older ladies are HRT and HIRT (high intensity resistance training). Meat or high quality protein is necessary, I should think, to hang onto the muscles, but not sufficient.

The challenge becomes the joints that support the muscles becoming less able to do that which the muscles need to thrive. If it's not one thing, it's another...

RUTH said...

So I can eat a nice juicy steak without feeling guilty...Wonderful news :o)

Mauigirl said...

I know, some of the studies that people agree to participate in do boggle the mind a bit! Maybe they give them a free ticket to Hawaii as incentive (I know that's what it would take for me!).

HRT I could do! But any kind of exercise with the words "high intensity" in the description gives me the shivers. I know I need to do it is about as strenuous as I can get. And even that I haven't been doing!

Mauigirl said...

Ruth, that was my take on it too! I'm sure that they would caveat it with a disclaimer like "If you have heart disease or a tendency to high cholesterol, protein sources should be from fish and lean cuts of chicken..." But me, I'll take the steak! My cholesterol level is only 180!

Marion said...

I'm glad I read this post...someone told me years ago that the elderly can't digest protein. I think that they must just have difficulty eating it, due to the problems you mentioned.

I love being an aging baby boomer, lol! Now I can eat steak, as well!

Chrysalis Angel said...

Hello Medicana, I just wanted to pop over and say hello. I read about your blog on the medbloggers code. What a great job you did on that! It's nice to see another patient blogger. Great job!

Mauigirl said...

Thanks, Marion, glad to be of service in letting you know you can eat/digest steak, even when you're elderly!

Chrysalis Angel, welcome! Thanks so much for your comment!

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