Whey protein, amino acids, and vitamin D supplementation with physical activity increases fat-free mass and strength, functionality, and quality of life and decreases inflammation in sarcopenic elderly

Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):830-40. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.113357. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Background: Interventions to attenuate the adverse effects of age-related loss of skeletal muscle and function include increased physical activity and nutritional supplementation.

Objective: This study tested the hypothesis that nutritional supplementation with whey protein (22 g), essential amino acids (10.9 g, including 4 g leucine), and vitamin D [2.5 μg (100 IU)] concurrent with regular, controlled physical activity would increase fat-free mass, strength, physical function, and quality of life, and reduce the risk of malnutrition in sarcopenic elderly persons.

Design: A total of 130 sarcopenic elderly people (53 men and 77 women; mean age: 80.3 y) participated in a 12-wk randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled supplementation trial. All participants concurrently took part in a controlled physical activity program. We examined body composition with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, muscle strength with a handgrip dynamometer, and blood biochemical indexes of nutritional and health status, and evaluated global nutritional status, physical function, and quality of life before and after the 12 wk of intervention.

Results: Compared with physical activity and placebo, supplementation plus physical activity increased fat-free mass (1.7-kg gain, P < 0.001), relative skeletal muscle mass (P = 0.009), android distribution of fat (P = 0.021), handgrip strength (P = 0.001), standardized summary scores for physical components (P = 0.030), activities of daily living (P = 0.001), mini nutritional assessment (P = 0.003), and insulin-like growth factor I (P = 0.002), and lowered C-reactive protein (P = 0.038).

Conclusion: Supplementation with whey protein, essential amino acids, and vitamin D, in conjunction with age-appropriate exercise, not only boosts fat-free mass and strength but also enhances other aspects that contribute to well-being in sarcopenic elderly. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02402608.

Keywords: amino acids; dietary supplement; elderly; fat-free mass; insulin-like growth factor I; relative skeletal muscle mass; sarcopenia; vitamin D; whey protein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amino Acids, Essential / pharmacology
  • Amino Acids, Essential / therapeutic use*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Fluid Compartments / metabolism
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1 / blood
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Quality of Life
  • Sarcopenia / drug therapy*
  • Sarcopenia / metabolism
  • Sarcopenia / pathology
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Whey Proteins / pharmacology
  • Whey Proteins / therapeutic use*


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1
  • Whey Proteins
  • Vitamin D
  • C-Reactive Protein

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02402608