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High protein intake helps defer frailty in elderly adults

25 Dec 2019

Frailty in very old adults with high protein intake appears to be delayed—an effect that is partly mediated by energy intake, a study reports.

The study used data from the Newcastle 85+ study and included 668 community-dwelling older adults (59 percent female) with complete dietary assessment and Fried frailty status (FFS; baseline and at 1.5, 3 and 5 years of follow-up).

Researchers estimated dietary intake using two-by-24-hour multiple pass recalls at baseline. FFS was based on the following criteria: shrinking, physical endurance/energy, low physical activity, weakness and slow walking speed.

In multistate models, the likelihood of transitioning from prefrail to frail decreased with every one-unit increase in protein intake (g/kg aBW/d; hazard ratio [HR], 0.44, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.25–0.77) but not for the other transitions.

Frailty also occurred less frequently in individuals with protein intakes of ≥0.8 g/kg aBW/d (HR, 0.60, 95 percent CI, 0.43–0.84) and ≥1 g/kg aBW/d (HR, 0.63, 95 percent CI, 0.44–0.90) from 85–90 years of age. When controlled for energy intake, the association was mitigated, although the direction remained the same (eg, g/kg aBW/d model: HR, 0.71, 95 percent CI, 0.36–1.41).

The present data suggest that “protein modulates frailty transitions not only because it provides energy but also for its functional and structural role,” the researchers said. Prevention strategies in very old adults should therefore include provision of protein and energy.

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