Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019

Personalised protein: Why intake needs to be optimised to meet healthy ageing needs - CSIRO study

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Personalised protein: Why intake needs to be optimised to meet healthy ageing needs - CSIRO study

Related tags: Protein, Healthy ageing, personalisation, Csiro

Australians are consuming inadequate amounts of protein, as well as the wrong sources of it, according to Dr Natalie Luscombe-Marsh, senior research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

Speaking at our Healthy Ageing APAC Summit in Singapore, she shared how CSIRO respond to some of these challenges and the opportunities arising from it.

Personalising protein

A report by CSIRO Australia​ highlighted Australia’s protein deficiencies, with Luscombe-Marsh adding that current global dietary guidelines were not optimal for protein intake.

Dietary intakes especially protein need to be personalised according to age, gender, actual body weight, physical activity, health status, medication, and energy needs (which differs for weight maintenance, weight loss or weight gain.”

Especially for adults above 65 years, they need more dietary protein than younger adults to support good health, promote recovery from illness, and maintain functionality, reported a study​ published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association​.

Luscombe-Marsh suggested a protein intake of 1 to 1.4g/kg/day for healthy elderly, and up to 1.6g/kg/day for pre-frail or frail elderly.

An increased protein intake is found to preserve muscle protein synthesis after hospitalisation, increase lean mass when combined with resistance exercise, and overall improve quality of life.

She said three groups of people would benefit most from more than 1.2g of protein/kg/day.

Firstly, overweight or obese people who want to reduce weight, optimise body composition, maintain strength and function.

In an Australian study​ published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases​, participants following a 30% calorie restricted diet (lower carbohydrate, higher protein) for more than one year had better weight and fat loss. They also saw improvements in lipids, blood pressure, glucose control, and inflammation.

The findings seemed to suggest that compliance to high protein diets (1.4g/kg/day) was important in managing obesity.

Secondly, adults over 30 years need protein to help slow age related muscle loss.

Lastly, vegetarians or vegans to ensure they consume enough protein and amino acids from plant-based foods.

Protein distribution

In the report by CSIRO Australia, it also recommended to balance protein intake across all meals.

Australians currently get the majority of their protein at the evening meal, although the new science suggests that a more even distribution helps hunger management and muscle metabolism. It appears that 25 to 30 g protein per main meal is the threshold for benefits​.”

NutraIngredients-Asia ​previously reported that balancing protein intake across the day helps to achieve maximum rate of muscle synthesis.

Protein sources

In the same report, they found: “Australians are eating significant amounts of protein from foods not considered good sources of protein, such as junk food and cereal-based dishes, due to the large quantities in which these foods are consumed​.”

It suggests consuming more quality protein whole foods such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, legumes and dairy products.

Luscombe-Marsh saw opportunities in this challenge. “We can make more plant based proteins, or fortify core foods with protein.​”

Given the higher intake of protein necessary for elderly, would the source of protein supplements matter?

Luscombe-Marsh and her team had conducted a study​ published in the journal Pilot and Feasibility Studies​. They found twice daily whey (dairy-based) or rice protein supplements given to pre-frail elderly had equal effects at maintaining function over six months.

However, the whey supplement was associated with more gut symptoms. On the other hand, the rice protein needed improvement on the taste and texture.

This suggests that the quality of protein supplement may not be as critical for maintaining physical function as long as a sufficient amount (≥ 1.2 g/day) is consumed as part of an overall healthy diet, but more research needs to be conducted.

Luscombe-Marsh suggests innovative product development can help to improve the taste and texture of plant-based protein supplements.

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