Linda M. Hengeveld, Anouk D.A. Pelgröm, Marjolein Visser, Jolanda M.A. Boer, Annemien Haveman-Nies, Hanneke A.H. Wijnhoven

 Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.10.013

Adequate protein intake is required to maintain muscle health, which is of great importance for prevention or delay of disability and mortality. However, a substantial part of older adults has a protein intake below the recommended 0.8 gram per kg body weight per day. In this study we explored the timing of the day, the origin (animal or vegetable) and food sources of protein intake of older adults (70 years and older) from The Netherlands. We also examined if we could characterize older adults with a low protein intake. For example, are they lower educated, do they have difficulties with walking or are they living alone? This knowledge will help us to develop strategies to improve the diet of older adults with a low protein intake.

We found that 15% of these older adults had a protein intake below the recommended 0.8 gram per kg body weight per day. Compared to older adults with a high protein intake, older adults with a low protein intake consequently ate less protein at all meal moments (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack moments). Furthermore, older adults with a low protein intake ate less protein from animal origin than older adults with a high protein intake. The biggest food sources of protein were similar among those with a low and a high protein intake: dairy, meat and cereals. Out of a long list of characteristics, we only found that older adults who follow a diet, who are obese an who don’t drink alcohol are more likely to have a low protein intake. However, in general we did not find that there is a specific group of characteristics that defines older adults with a low protein intake, which means that this can occur in every older person.

This study shows that the timing and animal versus vegetable origin of protein intake differs between older adults with a low and with a high protein intake. Because food sources and characteristics appear largely similar between those with a high and low protein intake, strategies to improve the diet of older adults with a low protein intake should target a broad population and multiple food sources.

The whole scientific paper can be found here