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The Importance of Whey Protein for Seniors

WheyProteinJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

If you read our recently published blog post entitled Fitness After 50, you learned that as we age our body composition changes. Weight gain and muscle loss are among the most noticeable changes. However, a reduction in total body protein, including physiologic proteins, results in deviations we can’t see. Aging is associated with various changes that include the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. This age-related loss of muscle mass, which may typically begin around age 40, is attributed to a disruption in the regulation of skeletal muscle protein turnover, also known as protein metabolism.

Protein turnover is defined as the balance between protein synthesis and protein degradation. When there is more protein synthesis than degradation the body is in an anabolic state wherein lean tissue is built. More protein degradation than synthesis indicates the body is in a catabolic state that tears down lean tissues. When we are younger, protein tissue accounts for 30 percent of whole-body protein turnover. As a result of an imbalance between protein synthesis and degradation that comes with aging, the 30 percent rate declines to 20 percent or less by about age 70. This results in the need for increased protein intake as we age, even more so for physically active seniors.

Physical activity stimulates post-exercise muscle growth in people of all ages. In older persons, prolonged resistance training is an effective strategy for building skeletal muscle and improving functional performance. However, muscle growth can only occur when muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown. A positive muscle protein balance largely depends on the timing of amino acid and/or protein ingestion before, during, and/or after exercise. The availability of plasma amino acids is an important regulator of muscle protein metabolism and improved muscle protein balance. Although exercise increases muscle protein synthesis, in the absence of protein intake, the balance remains negative.

The daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. Recently, it has come to light that seniors require an increased amount of at least 1.0 to 1.2 grams of dietary protein per kilogram of body weight. Other research indicates that active seniors may require up to 1.5 grams to optimize muscle and bone health. Dietary animal protein is the primary source of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, biotin, amino acids and other essential nutrients. The importance of dietary protein cannot be underestimated for older folks, as inadequate protein intake contributes to a decrease in reserve capacity, which can negatively affect immune health, slow healing, and increase recuperation time from an illness.

The increased need for protein may coincide with a diminished appetite, as well as decreased energy requirements and reduced caloric needs. Eggs, seafood and soy based products are good dietary protein sources for seniors, yet some may find adequate dietary protein difficult to obtain. Often associated with athletes and body builders, high quality whey protein powders may be even more beneficial for older individuals. Daily whey protein supplementation

offers a convenient and practical way to meet increased protein needs, and aids in retaining lean muscle mass, most notably when accompanied by regular exercise.

In fact, whey protein may be the ideal post- exercise nutrition, as it is quickly digested and encourages muscle growth and increased strength. As part of a healthy diet and exercise plan, protein shakes can help to boost physical strength, and have been shown in studies to improve fitness and the overall health profile of participants aged 70 and older. It appears that nutritional supplementation, particularly whey protein, provides a practical approach to increase the availability of plasma amino acids to noticeably improve the physical strength of those at risk of muscle loss in their senior years.

Professional Supplement Center carries many fine quality whey protein powders to support muscle and overall health:

Whey Protein...Whey Protein Concentrate by Biotics® Research: This suburb whey protein concentrate is derived from the milk of grass fed New Zealand cows, never treated with growth hormones or fed unnatural or GMO food. One scoop provides 21 grams of high quality whey protein with only 2 grams of natural sugar. Gluten free.

Vital Whey Protein...Vital Whey® Protein Natural Cocoa by Well Wisdom: This 100% natural biologically-active proprietary whey protein is derived from raw milk obtained from grass fed cows. It is minimally processed to maintain the full range of immune-modulating and regenerative components naturally present in fresh raw milk. Gluten, hormone, pesticide and chemical free, Non-GMO product. Flavored with natural cocoa. Also available in Natural Vanilla and Natural flavors.

Whey Basics VanillaWhey Basics Vanilla by Pure Encapsulations®: This product provides 21 grams of highly purified, non-denatured, nutritious whey protein isolate per serving. The protein is sourced from the milk of grass fed cows and is cold processed to preserve the natural health supportive ingredients. Natural vanilla bean flavor.

Whey Cool Protein -...Whey Cool™ Protein Natural Flavor by Designs for Health: This non-denatured proprietary whey protein concentrate is minimally processed to retain the full range of immune boosting and regenerative components naturally present in fresh raw milk. Derived from milk from cows that graze on pesticide and chemical free natural grass pastures. Cows are not subjected to growth hormone treatment, antibiotics, or GMO feed. Also available in Natural Vanilla and Natural Chocolate flavors.

Ultra Whey Plus...Ultra Whey Plus™ Vanilla by Douglas Laboratories®: This whey protein and potato protein concentrate provides 22 grams of protein per serving. A well-rounded product, it provides a rich source of amino acids, as well as an organic fruit and vegetable blend. Naturally sweetened with organic coconut palm sugar and organic stevia. Gluten, wheat and preservative free.

References:
Whey protein ingestion in elderly results in greater muscle protein accrual than ingestion of its constituent essential amino acid content. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2612691/
Protein and older adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640517
Whole-body protein turnover in the healthy elderly. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9322564
Distribution of Protein Turnover Changes with Age in Humans as Assessed by Whole-Body Magnetic Resonance Image Analysis to Quantify Tissue Volumes. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/4/784.full
Aging, exercise, and muscle protein metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19131471
Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11255140
Can the Elderly Take Whey Protein? http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-elderly-whey-protein-8318.html
Is There a Need for Protein Ingestion During Exercise? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008809/
New supplement can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170718142925.htm