Eating enough proteins spread among three daily may boost muscle strength among the elderly, a study has found. Loss of muscle is an inevitable consequence of ageing that can lead to frailty, falls or mobility problems. Eating enough protein is one way to remedy it, but it would seem that spreading protein equally among the three daily meals could be linked to greater mass and muscle strength in the elderly. Researchers from Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Universite de Montreal in Canada examined both the amount of protein consumed and its distribution among people aged 67 and over, using one of the most comprehensive cohort studies in Quebec. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shed new light on the diet of people in an ageing population. “Many seniors, especially in North America, consume the majority of their daily protein intake at lunch and dinner. We wanted to see if people who added protein sources to breakfast, and therefore had balanced protein intake through the three meals, had greater muscle strength,” said Stephanie Chevalier, assistant professor at McGill University.
Researchers analysed data from nearly 1,800 people who were followed for three years. They reviewed the protein consumption patterns of 827 healthy men and 914 healthy women aged 67 to 84 years, all residents of Quebec, trying to establish links with variables such as strength, muscle mass or mobility. “We observed that participants of both sexes who consumed protein in a balanced way during the day had more muscle strength than those who consumed more during the evening meal and less at breakfast,” said Samaneh Farsijani, a former PhD student at the RI-MUHC.
“However, the distribution of protein throughout the day was not associated with their mobility,” said Farsijani. All body tissues, including the muscles, are composed of proteins, which consist of amino acids. If the protein intake decreases, the synthesis is not done correctly and this leads to a loss of muscle mass.
“Our research is based on scientific evidence demonstrating that older people need to consume more protein per meal because they need a greater boost of amino acids for protein synthesis,” said Chevalier. “It would be interesting to look into protein sources and their amino acid composition in future studies to further our observations,” he said.