Increasing Protein Intake Prevents Age-Related Muscle LossDiet fads come, and diet fads go. From the grapefruit diet to the cabbage soup diet, even to the ice cream diet, Americans will try anything to lose weight. Some diet fashions promote avoiding entire categories of foods, such as fats or carbohydrates. More reasoned advice, however, recognizes that fats, complex carbohydrates, and proteins are all required for good health; what matters is the proportions of these categories.

In particular, high-quality proteins are emerging as a neglected component of a healthy diet. High-protein diets have been shown to increase fullness after meals and reduce food cravings, thereby aiding weight loss. It has been recommended by the Institute for Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Institutes of Health, that most people should be eating between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (For athletes or other people who are extremely active, protein requirements would be higher.) Ideally, people should consume approximately 35% of their daily calories from protein.

Unfortunately, a study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism reveals that Americans — particularly older Americans — do not consume nearly enough protein as they need. On average, an American age 20 and above consumes only about 15% of their calories from protein. The majority of calories comes from simple carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice.

For seniors, adequate protein intake, in addition to being generally healthy, helps prevent sarcopenia, an age-related loss of muscle. The importance of this cannot be overstated, since muscle loss is associated with a host of physical problems, including frailty, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heightened risk of falling.

While adequate protein intake is important, it should not be taken to the level of a “fad.” It is possible — and dangerous — to to eat too much protein, especially if a person is suffering from kidney or liver disease. Therefore, as with all changes in diet, it is important to discuss these issues with your doctor. In particular, your doctor may decide that it is important to supplement your new diet with specific vitamins to ensure that your new diet is optimized for your physical condition.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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