Protein intake and muscle function in older adults

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 May;18(3):248-53. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000162.


Purpose of review: We provide an update on the recent advances in nutrition research regarding the role of protein intake in the development and treatment of sarcopenia of aging.

Recent findings: Specific muscle mass, strength and function cut-points for the diagnosis of sarcopenia have been identified. There is mounting evidence, as highlighted by multiple consensus statements, that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (0.8 g/kg body weight) may be inadequate to promote optimal health in older adults. Recent research indicates that in addition to total daily protein intake the timing of protein intake is also important to best stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and maintain muscle mass and function in older adults.

Summary: Recent evidence suggests that the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is inadequate, and that the timing and distribution of protein consumption throughout daily meals may be as important as the total quantity. Research has continued to advance our understanding of protein's effects on muscle metabolism; however, there remains a need for large, long-term, randomized clinical trials examining whether the positive effects of dietary protein on muscle metabolism seen in acute studies will translate over the long term into gains of muscle mass, function, and the overall health of older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins