Our understanding of the potential benefits and challenges of optimizing dietary protein intake in older adults continues to evolve. An overarching hypothesis generated during Protein Summit 2.0 was that consuming an adequate amount of high-quality protein at each meal, in combination with physical activity, may delay the onset of sarcopenia, slow its progression, reduce the magnitude of its functional consequences, or all of these. The potential benefits of young and middle-aged adults adopting a diet pattern whereby adequate protein is consumed at each meal as a countermeasure to sarcopenia are presented and discussed. For example, meeting a protein threshold (∼25-30 g/meal) represents a promising, yet still largely unexplored dietary strategy to help maintain muscle mass and function. For many older adults, breakfast is a carbohydrate-dominated lower-protein meal and represents an opportunity to improve and more evenly distribute daily protein intake. Although both animal and plant-based proteins can provide the required essential amino acids for health, animal proteins generally have a higher proportion of the amino acid leucine. Leucine plays a key role in stimulating translation initiation and muscle protein anabolism and is the focus of ongoing research. Protein requirements should be assessed in the light of habitual physical activity. An evenly distributed protein diet provides a framework that allows older adults to benefit from the synergistic anabolic effect of protein and physical activity. To fully understand the role of dietary protein intake in healthy aging, greater efforts are needed to coordinate and integrate research design and data acquisition and interpretation from a variety of disciplines.
Keywords: dietary requirements; muscle; nutrition; protein; sarcopenia.
© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.