- A new study in mice suggests that consuming a moderate amount of protein may be more conducive to metabolic health.
- In the study, the sweet spot for moderate protein consumption was 25% to 35% of a rat’s daily diet.
- Older people need more protein because the body is no longer able to process macronutrients efficiently.
It only makes sense that a person’s nutritional needs change as they move through life from infancy to adulthood. As we grow, reach maturity, and age, our bodies are occupied with different tasks.
As researchers seek to extend our periods of healthy living free of serious illness, they hope to identify the optimal balance of macronutrients that promote good health at each stage of life.
A new mouse study investigates the role of proteins at different life stages.
The study finds that consuming moderate amounts of protein in young and middle age may be key to good metabolic health.
The study authors fed young (6 months) and middle-aged (16 months) mice diets with different levels of protein for two months. Their diet consisted of 5%, 15%, 25%, 35%, or 45% protein. The moderate amounts identified in the study were 25% and 35%.
All mice were fasted for three hours before being euthanized for tissue collection and analysis.
In mice, a low-protein diet led to the development of fatty liver, and middle-aged mice showed higher levels of lipids, or fats, in their systems than younger mice.
Moderate protein diets lowered lipid and blood sugar levels in mice.
The study is published in Geroscience.
Proteins are essential in all stages of life. As Conner Middlemann of Modern Mediterranean noted, the word protein comes from the Greek word proteomeaning first or primary, reflecting its status as a top drawer in human nutrition.
Dr. Stuart Phillips of McMaster University explained the importance of protein:
During growth, proteins provide the building blocks (amino acids) for making new bones, skin, teeth, muscles, etc. Basically, every tissue requires protein to grow. Once fully grown, proteins still provide building blocks not for growth, but to replace proteins as they are turned inside out (broken down). Body protein turnover occurs throughout our lives.
In the United States, the daily required amount (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is far less than the body’s actual needs, Middlemann said. He clarified that the figure represents only the amount of protein needed to avoid malnutrition, not the amount to promote good health.
How much protein?
Middlemann noted that the RDA is a holdover from a time when nitrogen balance studies that are no longer considered valid formed the basis for such recommendations. She said a more accurate understanding of nutritional needs could be obtained using the Amino Acid Oxidation Indicator (IAAO) technique.
The IAAO technique, Middlemann said, provides a more reasonable day recommendation. It suggests that 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is appropriate for healthy young men, older men and older women.
The difference between the two recommendations is significant. The RDA for a 150-pound person is 54 g of protein per day, whereas according to IAAO measurement, it would rise to 81 g of protein.
But can you consume too much protein?
We have a high capacity to digest and absorb protein, so I’m not sure you can get so much that it’s too much, Dr. Phillips said.
He noted that some have suggested that excess protein can lead to kidney and bone problems, but these are largely debunked.
For the most part, proteins are relatively equal, but a true axiom is that animal-based proteins are of higher quality than plant-based ones, Dr. Phillips noted, but added. Most work shows that this difference is probably quite small.
As for whether the study results will be transferred to humans, said Dr. Phillips, it’s always hard to know, but as short-lived mammals, mice are a proxy for humans, but much of what you see in mice may not translate easily to humans. .
Middlemann felt that the study still had value:
Even though this is a mouse study, it reinforces my opinion that most of us, especially anyone over the age of 50, will benefit from getting about 25 percent of the energy we consume from protein. This is significantly more than the average American currently consumes.
Some people need even more protein, Middlemann said.
Of particular note are people who engage in resistance training. To maximize lean body mass, the average amount required, he said, is about 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, and some people may need 2.2 g/kg or more.
For people looking to burn fat while maintaining muscle, 1.6 to 2.4 grams per kilogram may be sufficient.
While the study finds that a moderate intake of protein may be optimal for young and middle-aged people, older people require even more protein, Middlemann explained.
Sarcopenia is the leading cause of age-related frailty, which is associated with a higher risk of disability, need to go to a nursing home, and of falls, fractures, hospitalizations and premature death, Middleman said.
It occurs with age-related muscle loss, he said, ranging from 0.5% to 2% of total muscle mass each year, starting around age 50 (although in people who are largely inactive, can start earlier).
Middlemann also said that his clients have been able to increase muscle mass, cardio-metabolic health and overall quality of life by consuming 25 to 35 grams of protein at each meal and practicing weight training. resistence.
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