Protein intake prevents physical disability in old age


In Mexico, the prevalence of functional disability in the elderly is about 23 % and is mainly associated with loss of muscle mass. This condition is potentially reversible, according to Dr. Heliodoro Alemán Mateo, head researcher, and professor of the postgraduate program at the Food and Development Research Center (CIAD).

Protein intake prevents physical disability in old age
Protein intake prevents physical disability in old age

According to the academic, this is possible if the elderly are provided with higher amounts of protein than those recommended by international organizations and national institutions.

As a natural condition, the elderly lose an average of 200 to 300 grams of muscle mass annually. However, in the patient with diabetes who does not have adequate control of his or her blood glucose, the loss may be greater, affecting his or her functionality and quality of life.

On the other hand, for decades nutrition specialists based on the recommendations of international organizations have suggested that an older adult should eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

However, according to the results of cohort studies by researchers from the United States and Australia, as well as the results of a research study conducted by a CIAD working group, consumption should reach 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight of the elderly person, since this prevents loss of muscle mass and improves functionality.

An older adult requires protein, especially of animal origin (beef, chicken, or fish) and its derivatives (eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and others). Therefore, if we take an average weight of 70 kilograms and an intake of 1.2 grams in a senior citizen, we are talking about daily consumption of 80 to 90 grams of protein.

A whole egg contains seven grams of protein, the same amount as is found in two egg whites. Likewise, with a 150-gram portion of chicken breast, meat, fish, in the food is guaranteed approximately 25 to 35 grams.

"The food industry offers dairy products that are highly beneficial because they are low in fat and lactose, but also contain almost twice as much protein as other products. There are commercial products that provide up to 13.5 grams of protein per 240-milliliter glass, so one serving at breakfast and one at dinner can very well complement the amount required daily.

The CIAD researcher warned that older adults with diabetes can also easily follow the above guidelines, unless there are signs of kidney damage, in which case the doctor with knowledge of geriatric nutrition should prescribe the daily protein amounts.