Having more high-protein meals improves muscle mass, function in frail, pre-frail seniors
Total protein intake and the number of high-protein meals correlate with muscle mass in frail and pre-frail elderly adults, a recent study has found.
The study included 157 pre-frail and frail elderly adults whose total and per-meal protein intake patterns were assessed using food diaries. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was performed to measure total lean mass, while a B-mode ultrasound was performed to measure the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the vastus lateralis muscle.
Ten percent of the participants were frail upon initial assessment, though more than half had at least one meal per day that contained ≥20 g protein. Twelve participants (8 percent) had >2 daily meals with ≥30 g protein.
Grouping participants according to the number of meals with ≥20 g protein, researchers found statistically similar body fat across groups. The same was true for the proportion of pre-frail/frail participants.
However, they saw that the total and appendicular lean mass, the CSA of vastus lateralis, as well as muscular strength and function, were better in participants who consumed more high-protein meals. Muscle function was measured through the following exercises: leg-press, bench-press, handgrip test, and the timed-up-and-go and timed stand tests.
The risk of falls, evaluated using the Biodex Balance System, was comparable across groups (p=0.562).
As was expected, energy intake, as well as total and relative protein intake levels, was higher in participants who had more high-protein meals.
“Despite the fact that current [recommended dietary allowances] for protein does not account for per meal amounts of dietary protein, the more frequent consumption of meals with adequate amounts of protein may constitute a potential strategy to mitigate age-induced muscle loss and function, particularly in frail and pre-frail individuals,” researchers said.
“Larger cross-sectional studies and clinical trials are necessary to test this hypothesis in the clinical setting,” they added.