Is the Secret to Good Aging Protein?

Is the Secret to Good Aging Protein?

Protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and fiber are probably the essential elements of a healthy diet that you are aware of. However, one may be more significant than you think, particularly as you age.

According to recent research that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, protein may be essential for maintaining good ageing. Data from 48,762 female nurses who are enrolled in a long-term health study were included in the study. At the beginning of the study, all of them were middle-aged (30–55). Up until 2014 or 2016, they were assessed every two years regarding their diet, physical and mental health, and overall state of mind.1.

According to the research, eating more protein is highly associated with aging healthily, with plant-based proteins offering the greatest advantages.1.

What Does “Healthy” Aging Entail?

According to the study, “healthy aging” was defined as being free of 11 main chronic diseases, in good mental and physical health, and without having any memory or physical deficits.

  • Cancer (with the exception of melanoma skin cancer)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery or coronary angioplasty
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • At the end of the study, about 7.6% of the participants were considered to be part of the “healthy aging” group.

Researchers found that individuals who consumed more plant-based protein had a 46% higher chance of aging healthily than those who consumed more meat and dairy protein, who had a 6% lower chance.

Better mobility was the sole age-related health benefit associated with eating more animal protein in the study; however, consuming more animal-based protein was also associated with a higher chance of developing chronic illnesses.1.

Why Eating Protein Keeps You Younger

Higher protein intake was linked in the study to favorable age-related health outcomes, such as preserved muscle mass and decreased frailty. Although the exact relationship is unknown, one theory is that protein may activate the molecules that grow muscle.

Sarcopenia is the natural aging-related loss of muscle mass and function. Sara Chatfield, RDN, MPH, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Health Canal, told Verywell that protein may help counteract this loss. As per Chatfield, consuming 25-30 grams of superior quality protein with every meal could potentially avert the onset of sarcopenia.

Protein may also have a significant positive impact on the brain, possibly even preventing cognitive deterioration. A registered dietitian at Nourish named Sarah Hormachea, MS, RD, BC-ADM, CDCES, informed Verywell that protein may support the structural integrity of brain cells, thereby enhancing cognitive performance.

“Neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, are made from tiny protein molecules called amino acids. These chemical messengers help regulate our mood, focus, memory, and cognition,” said Hormachea. “Proteins are essential building blocks for our brain cells. They give structure to the cellular membrane. Antioxidant proteins can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, which is known to cause cognitive decline.”

The study also discovered a favorable correlation between improved mental and physical health outcomes and increased consumption of plant-based protein.1.

Not Every Protein Is Made Equal

Although numerous plant-based proteins are also available, animal products like meat may initially spring to mind when you think about protein.

According to Verywell, a registered dietitian at Kori Krill Oil named Chrissy Arsenault, RDN, plant-based proteins might provide the necessary nutritional advantages without the drawbacks of animal protein that you might be attempting to avoid.

According to Arsenault, “people who substituted plant protein for animal protein aged healthily, had good physical function, and maintained good mental health—and thus had a lower risk of chronic disease.”

Thus, the type of protein you eat is just as important as its quantity. Arsenault states that consuming a lot of red and processed meats that are high in saturated fat can be detrimental to your health and increase your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Diversifying your sources of protein is your best chance. While it is true that red meats have the highest concentration of accessible amino acids (i.e., those that your body can absorb easily), it is still worthwhile to include other protein sources in your diet because they are rich in vital micronutrients that support your health, such as fish, poultry, dairy, and legumes.

Chatfield agreed, adding that since most Americans already get plenty of protein in their diets, “it’s more helpful to focus on spreading out protein intake and choosing a healthy protein at each meal. Focusing on more plant-based foods may benefit mental and physical health in older age, along with other essential nutrients, fiber, and beneficial antioxidant-rich plant compounds.”

What Is an Appropriate Amount of Protein for You to Consume?

Although dietary recommendations vary slightly based on your age and level of activity, the USDA suggests 5 to 6 ounces of protein for women 60 years of age and older, and 5.5 to 6.5 ounces for men in the same age range.2.

According to Hormachea, protein makes up a larger portion of an older adult’s total intake because their overall calorie requirements are lower.

However, there is such a thing as consuming too much protein, and doing so can lead to renal issues and constipation. Urea, a substance found in urine, is used to get rid of excess protein. The kidneys may be unable to cope with an excess of protein in the body, which can cause dehydration and possibly irreversible kidney damage.

“It’s important to couple higher protein intake with adequate fiber and fluids. There is no additional benefit to consuming more than 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight,” said Hormachea.

It’s best to speak with your provider if you’re unsure of the appropriate amount of protein to consume or whether it’s safe to include in your diet. Although it’s crucial for your health to consume enough protein, you need also make sure you’re not taking more than your body actually requires.

Sanchita Patil

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