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Monday, September 03, 2007

The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly

To go along with the post on age and exercise, here is an article titled The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly from Science Daily.

This won't come as a surprise to most of us here, but it could be beneficial to our loved ones.

A new study recently published suggests that a diet containing a moderate amount of protein-rich food such as beef, fish, pork, chicken, dairy or nuts may help slow the deterioration of elderly people's muscles.

The article goes on to say that reducing muscle mass decline is vital in the health of the elderly. As Anna mentioned in the comments of the previous post, there is somewhat of a catch-22 with the elderly and the well-known "shuffle walk" they many of them do. They shuffle to maintain balance, which has been lost due to declining muscle mass. But shuffling keeps the muscles from being worked, so they further decline in strength, which results in even less balance and more shuffling. It's a vicious cycle.

Elderly people may eat less protein for a number of reasons, said Paddon-Jones, including cost, the fact that many foods may not taste as good to them as they once did, difficulty chewing, limited menus in nursing homes or assisted living communities, and decline in appetite. Another important contributor to muscle loss in the elderly is a lack of exercise, he noted.

Of course, we all know the value of a diet rich in protein and fat, but so many people are stuck on a high-carb diet (nearly always low in protein) with lots of joint-pounding, muscle-wasting aerobic activity. Both of these things lead to a decline in muscle mass and a decline in functionality as one ages. The way to go into old age with vigor and vitality, able to care for oneself is a nutrient-rich, low-carb diet (don't fear the fat) and lots of intense, muscle-building activity.

With the increasing cost of health care, it's important to remain functional as long as possible, so take care of yourself and maybe you'll be one of those 80-90 year olds running track in the Senior Olympics, laughing in the face of old age.