Effects of randomized whey-protein loads on energy intake, appetite, gastric emptying, and plasma gut-hormone concentrations in older men and women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Sep;106(3):865-877. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.154377. Epub 2017 Jul 26.


Background: Protein- and energy-rich supplements are used widely for the management of malnutrition in the elderly. Information about the effects of protein on energy intake and related gastrointestinal mechanisms and whether these differ between men and women is limited.Objective: We determined the effects of whey protein on energy intake, appetite, gastric emptying, and gut hormones in healthy older men and women.Design: Eight older women and 8 older men [mean ± SEM age: 72 ± 1 y; body mass index (in kg/m2): 25 ± 1] were studied on 3 occasions in which they received protein loads of 30 g (120 kcal) or 70 g (280 kcal) or a flavored water control drink (0 kcal). At regular intervals over 180 min, appetite (visual analog scales), gastric emptying (3-dimensional ultrasonography), and blood glucose and plasma gut-hormone concentrations [insulin, glucagon, ghrelin, cholecystokinin, gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), and peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY)] were measured, and ad libitum energy intake was quantified from a buffet meal (180-210 min; energy intake, appetite, and gastric emptying in the men have been published previously).Results: Energy intake at the buffet meal was ∼80% higher in older men than in older women (P < 0.001). Energy intake was not suppressed by protein compared with the control in men or women (P > 0.05). There was no effect of sex on gastric emptying, appetite, gastrointestinal symptoms, glucose, or gut hormones (P > 0.05). There was a protein load-dependent slowing of gastric emptying, an increase in concentrations of insulin, glucagon, cholecystokinin, GIP, GLP-1, and PYY, and an increase in total energy intake (drink plus meal: 12% increase with 30 g and 32% increase with 70 g; P < 0.001). Energy intake at the buffet meal was inversely related to the stomach volume and area under the curve of hormone concentrations (P < 0.05).Conclusion: In older men and women, whey-protein drinks load-dependently slow gastric emptying and alter gut hormone secretion compared with a control but have no suppressive effect on subsequent ad libitum energy intake. This trial was registered at www.anzctr.org.au as ACTRN12612000941864.

Keywords: aging; appetite and energy intake; gastrointestinal function; gastrointestinal mechanisms; sex; whey protein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Satiety Response / drug effects*
  • Stomach / drug effects*
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Whey Proteins / pharmacology*


  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Whey Proteins