A 9-wk study of adaptation to marginal protein intakes was conducted in 12 elderly women. Subjects were randomly assigned to two groups fed a weight-maintenance diet containing either 1.47 (low) or 2.94 (adequate) g protein.kg body cell mass-1.d-1 (0.45 and 0.92 g.kg body wt-1.d-1, respectively). Mean nitrogen balance in the low-protein group remained negative throughout the study. These subjects experienced significant losses in lean tissue, immune response, and muscle function. The adequate-protein group was in nitrogen balance throughout the study, without changes in lean tissue, and with improvements in immune response, serum immunoglobulins, albumin, total protein values, and muscle function. Thus, elderly women fed the low-protein diet accommodated to the diet by compromising functional capacity, whereas those fed the adequate diet maintained functional capacity.