Soluble Milk Protein Supplementation with Moderate Physical Activity Improves Locomotion Function in Aging Rats

PLoS One. 2016 Dec 14;11(12):e0167707. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167707. eCollection 2016.


Aging is associated with a loss of muscle mass and functional capacity. Present study was designed to compare the impact of specific dairy proteins on muscular function with or without a low-intensity physical activity program on a treadmill in an aged rat model. We investigated the effects of nutritional supplementation, five days a week over a 2-month period with a slow digestible protein, casein or fast digestible proteins, whey or soluble milk protein, on strength and locomotor parameters in sedentary or active aged Wistar RjHan rats (17-19 months of age). An extensive gait analysis was performed before and after protein supplementation. After two months of protein administration and activity program, muscle force was evaluated using a grip test, spontaneous activity using an open-field and muscular mass by specific muscle sampling. When aged rats were supplemented with proteins without exercise, only minor effects of different diets on muscle mass and locomotion were observed: higher muscle mass in the casein group and improvement of stride frequencies with soluble milk protein. By contrast, supplementation with soluble milk protein just after physical activity was more effective at improving overall skeletal muscle function in old rats compared to casein. For active old rats supplemented with soluble milk protein, an increase in locomotor activity in the open field and an enhancement of static and dynamic gait parameters compared to active groups supplemented with casein or whey were observed without any differences in muscle mass and forelimb strength. These results suggest that consumption of soluble milk protein as a bolus immediately after a low intensity physical activity may be a suitable nutritional intervention to prevent decline in locomotion in aged rats and strengthen the interest to analyze the longitudinal aspect of locomotion in aged rodents.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Gait
  • Hand Strength
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Male
  • Milk Proteins / chemistry*
  • Movement
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sedentary Behavior


  • Milk Proteins

Grants and funding

This study was supported by Lactalis. The funder had a role in study design (discussion and agreement) and correction of the manuscript. Aude Lafoux and Corinne Huchet have nothing to declare. Charlotte Baudry, Cécile Bonhomme and Pascale Le Ruyet are employed by Lactalis company.