Clinical effectiveness of protein and amino acid supplementation on building muscle mass in elderly people: a meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 30;9(9):e109141. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109141. eCollection 2014.


Objective: A major reason for the loss of mobility in elderly people is the gradual loss of lean body mass known as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is associated with a lower quality of life and higher healthcare costs. The benefit of strategies that include nutritional intervention, timing of intervention, and physical exercise to improve muscle loss unclear as finding from studies investigating this issue have been inconsistent. We have performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the ability of protein or amino acid supplementation to augment lean body mass or strength of leg muscles in elderly patients.

Methods: Nine studies met the inclusion criteria of being a prospective comparative study or randomized controlled trial (RCT) that compared the efficacy of an amino acid or protein supplement intervention with that of a placebo in elderly people (≥ 65 years) for the improvement of lean body mass (LBM), leg muscle strength or reduction associated with sarcopenia.

Results: The overall difference in mean change from baseline to the end of study in LBM between the treatment and placebo groups was 0.34 kg which was not significant (P = 0.386). The overall differences in mean change from baseline in double leg press and leg extension were 2.14 kg (P = 0.748) and 2.28 kg (P = 0.265), respectively, between the treatment group and the placebo group.

Conclusions: These results indicate that amino acid/protein supplements did not increase lean body mass gain and muscle strength significantly more than placebo in a diverse elderly population.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia / diet therapy*
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.