Dietary protein intake is associated with better physical function and muscle strength among elderly women

Br J Nutr. 2016 Apr 14;115(7):1281-91. doi: 10.1017/S000711451600012X. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Dietary protein intake might be beneficial to physical function (PF) in the elderly. We examined the cross-sectional and prospective associations of protein intake of g/kg body weight (BW), fat mass (FM) and lean mass (LM) with PF in 554 women aged 65·3-71·6 years belonging to the Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention Fracture Prevention Study. Participants filled a questionnaire on lifestyle factors and 3-d food record in 2002. Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and PF measures were performed at baseline and at 3-year follow-up. Sarcopaenia was defined using European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People criteria. At the baseline, women with higher protein intake (≥ 1·2 g/kg BW) had better performance in hand-grip strength/body mass (GS/BM) (P=0·001), knee extension/BM (P=0·003), one-leg stance (P=0·047), chair rise (P=0·043), squat (P=0·019), squat to the ground (P=0·001), faster walking speed for 10 m (P=0·005) and higher short physical performance battery score (P=0·004) compared with those with moderate and lower intakes (0·81-1·19 and ≤ 0·8 g/kg BW, respectively). In follow-up results, higher protein intake was associated with less decline in GS/BM, one-leg stance and tandem walk for 6 m over 3 years. Overall, results were no longer significant after controlling for FM. Associations were detected between protein intake and PF in non-sarcopaenic women but not in sarcopaenic women, except for change of GS (P=0·037). Further, FM but not LM was negatively associated with PF measures (P<0·050). This study suggests that higher protein intake and lower FM might be positively associated with PF in elderly women.

Keywords: BM body mass; BW body weight; Dietary protein intake; Elderly women; FM fat mass; GS hand-grip strength; LM lean mass; MS muscle strength; Muscle strength; PF physical function; Physical function; RSMI relative skeletal muscle index; SPPB short physical performance battery; Sarcopaenia; WS walking speed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Composition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sarcopenia / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Proteins