Impact of increased protein intake in older adults: a 12-week double-blind randomised controlled trial

Age Ageing. 2024 May 11;53(Supplement_2):ii13-ii19. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afae031.


Background: Emerging evidence suggests health-promoting properties of increased protein intake. There is increased interest in plant protein but a dearth of information in relation to its impact on muscle function. The objective of the present work was to examine the impact of intake of different types of proteins on muscle functional parameters including handgrip strength, biomarkers of metabolic health, sleep quality and quality of life in a group of older adults.

Methods: Healthy men and women aged 50 years and older entered a double-blinded, randomised, controlled nutritional intervention study with three parallel arms: high plant protein, high dairy protein and low protein. Participants consumed once daily a ready-to-mix shake (containing 20 g of protein in high protein groups) for 12 weeks. Changes in handgrip and leg strength, body composition, metabolic health, quality of life and sleep quality were analysed by linear mixed models in an intention-to-treat approach.

Results: Eligible participants (n = 171) were randomly assigned to the groups (plant: n = 60, dairy: n = 56, low protein: n = 55) and 141 completed the study. Handgrip strength increased after the intervention (Ptime = 0.038), with no significant difference between the groups. There was no significant difference between groups for any other health outcomes.

Conclusions: In a population of older adults, increasing protein intake by 20 g daily for 12 weeks (whether plant-based or dairy-based) did not result in significant differences in muscle function, body composition, metabolic health, sleep quality or quality of life, compared with the low protein group.

Keywords: handgrip; muscle function; older people; plant-protein; protein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Composition*
  • Diet, High-Protein
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hand Strength*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sleep* / physiology
  • Time Factors