Some experts have proposed that older people need to consume extra protein to maintain and promote muscle growth. To test this, researchers randomly assigned 92 men (ages 65 and older, with mild to moderate physical limitations) to a diet supplying the RDA for protein (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight a day) or a diet with a higher level (1.3 grams per kilogram) for six months. Packaged meals were supplied, and the men were told to maintain their usual physical activity level.
At the end of the study, there were no significant differences in muscle strength, physical function, balance, lean body mass, or other measures between the two groups. It’s not known if the findings would apply to women, frailer people, or those undertaking increased strength training.
Most Americans easily meet the RDA for protein, though older people are more likely to fall short. For someone weighing 175 pounds, the RDA works out to 63 grams of protein a day. Four ounces of poultry, 8 ounces of yogurt, an egg, and a half cup of beans would supply that much.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Do You Need More Protein?