Where's the beef? Not enough of it is on elders' plates, muscle-metabolism study suggests

ve done studies in the past with specialized drinks containing amino acids the chemical building blocks of proteins but this was the first time anybodys looked at a real food and its ability to stimulate muscle growth in both the young and elderly, Paddon-Jones said. What we learned was really encouraging, because it suggests that elderly people actually can benefit from eating a moderate serving of protein-rich foods. Thats something they arent doing enough now in fact, between 16 and 27 percent of older adults are eating less than the USDAs recommended daily allowance of protein.

Elderly people may eat less protein for a number of reasons, said Paddon-Jones, including cost, the fact that many foods may not taste as good to them as they once did, difficulty chewing, limited menus in nursing homes or assisted living communities, and decline in appetite. Another important contributor to muscle loss in the elderly is a lack of exercise, he noted.

Even among the elders who volunteered for the study, whom Paddon-Jones described as typically more physically active than most others in the elderly population, a disturbing thing was that on average they had 12 kilograms (26.5 pounds) less lean muscle mass than the younger people we tested. That difference, he said, would probably be even greater in the general population. In other words, compared to a young adult, a typical elderly person lacks the advantages provided by more than 26 pounds of muscle a deficit that in some cases could lead an older person to being permanently bedridden by an injury or illness.

A high percentage of elderly folks who break a hip or suffer a major injury never get out of bed again, and one of the big reasons is that they rapidly lose so much muscle mass and strength that they become physically incapable of getting up, Paddon-Jones said. Sufficient muscle is fundamental for the activities of daily living, movement and independence its definitely a quality-of-l

Contact: Jim Kelly
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

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