Protein Intake and Muscle Health in Old Age: From Biological Plausibility to Clinical Evidence

Nutrients. 2016 May 14;8(5):295. doi: 10.3390/nu8050295.


The provision of sufficient amounts of dietary proteins is central to muscle health as it ensures the supply of essential amino acids and stimulates protein synthesis. Older persons, in particular, are at high risk of insufficient protein ingestion. Furthermore, the current recommended dietary allowance for protein (0.8 g/kg/day) might be inadequate for maintaining muscle health in older adults, probably as a consequence of "anabolic resistance" in aged muscle. Older individuals therefore need to ingest a greater quantity of protein to maintain muscle function. The quality of protein ingested is also essential to promoting muscle health. Given the role of leucine as the master dietary regulator of muscle protein turnover, the ingestion of protein sources enriched with this essential amino acid, or its metabolite β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, is thought to offer the greatest benefit in terms of preservation of muscle mass and function in old age.

Keywords: amino acid; anorexia; frailty; leucine; malnutrition; sarcopenia; supplementation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Leucine
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Leucine