Dietary protein may help prevent age-related declines in strength and functional capacity. This study examines the independent relationship between dietary protein and longitudinal changes in physical functioning among adults participating in the Framingham Offspring Study from examination 5 (1991-1995) to examination 8 (2005-2008). Protein intakes were derived from 3-day diet records during examinations 3 and 5; functional status was determined over 12 years using 7 items selected from standardized questionnaires. Multivariable models adjusted for age, sex, education, physical activity, smoking, height, and energy intake. Functional tasks that benefitted most from a higher-protein diet (≥1.2 g/kg/day vs. <0.8 g/kg/day) were doing heavy work at home, walking 1/2 mile (0.8 km), going up and down stairs, stooping/kneeling/crouching, and lifting heavy items. Those with higher protein intakes were 41% less likely (95% CI: 0.43, 0.82) to become dependent in 1 or more of the functional tasks over follow-up. Higher physical activity and lower body mass index were both independently associated with less functional decline. The greatest risk reductions were found among those with higher protein intakes combined with either higher physical activity, more skeletal muscle mass, or lower body mass index. This study demonstrates that dietary protein intakes above the current US Recommended Daily Allowance may slow functional decline in older adults.