Health Advice



Nutrition News: Protein For Older Adults

Charlyn Fargo on

Protein For Older Adults

Can protein help you stay independent as you age?

Protein is known to slow the loss of muscle mass. Having enough muscle mass can help preserve the ability to perform daily activities and prevent disability. Older adults tend to have a lower protein intake than younger adults due to poorer health, reduced physical activity, changes in the mouth and teeth and changes in absorption.

Recently, a research team from the United Kingdom studied whether eating more protein could contribute to helping people maintain independence. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers used data from the Newcastle 85+ Study conducted in the United Kingdom. This study's researchers approached all people turning 85 in 2006 in two cities in the U.K. for participation. At the beginning of the study in 2006-2007, there were 722 participants, 60% of whom were women. The participants provided researchers with information about what they ate every day, their body weight and height measurements, their overall health assessment (including any level of disability) and their medical records.

The researchers learned that 28% of older adults in North-East England had protein intakes below the recommended dietary allowance. The researchers noted that older adults who have more chronic health conditions may also have different protein requirements. Researchers examined the impact of protein intake on the increase of disability over five years.

The researchers' theory was that eating more protein would be associated with slower disability development in elderly adults, depending on their muscle mass and muscle strength. And their research backed that up. Participants who ate more protein at the beginning of the study were less likely to become disabled compared to people who ate less protein.

Dr. Nuno Mendonca, the principal author of the study, wrote in the Journal article, "Our findings support current thinking about increasing the recommended daily intake of protein to maintain active and healthy aging."

Older adults should aim to eat about 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. For example, for a person who weighs 160 pounds, that would be about 72 grams of protein per day. That compares with the current recommendation for adults (young and elderly) at 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight per day, or 58 grams of protein per day for a 160-pound person.

The bottom line is most adults get more than enough protein, but as you age, it may be beneficial to consume more protein to stay independent.

Q and A

Q: Are there health benefits to grilling?

A: Yes. Grilling allows excess fat to melt and drip off meats rather than being reabsorbed into the food, so you're likely to consume less fat. Grilling also decreases the need for sauces and seasonings that may contain extra salt because it gives a natural smoky flavor. More nutrients may also be retained because ingredients are cooked quickly on the grill. Grilling is also an invitation to spend time with family and friends outdoors. You can also put your favorite fruits and vegetables on the grill.


If you missed celebrating Cinco de Mayo, it's never too late. Here's a recipe for steak de Burgo tacos, from Hy-Vee's Seasons magazine. The taco shells are made fresh, adding to the flavor of these steak tacos.


Servings: 8

2 (8-ounce) beef tenderloin filet mignon steaks


1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

Vegetable oil (for frying shells)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus additional for garnish

Fresh pico de gallo, for garnish (purchased)

Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Season steaks with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Whisk together flour, baking powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Add warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 8 pieces; form each into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 1/4-inch-thick round. Heat 1 inch of oil in large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Fry dough rounds in two batches, 4-5 minutes or until golden and crisp, turning halfway through. Drain on paper towels; set aside. Carefully remove and discard oil in skillet. Heat same skillet over medium-high heat. Add steaks to skillet; cook 10-12 minutes or until steaks reach an internal temperature of 130 F for medium-rare doneness, turning halfway through. Transfer to a cutting board. Loosely cover with foil; let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across the grain. For sauce, wipe skillet clean with paper towels and add butter, garlic and heavy cream. Heat over low heat until butter is melted, whisking occasionally. Stir in oregano, parsley and 1/4 cup basil. To serve, top taco shells with steak. Garnish with pico de gallo and additional basil, if desired. Drizzle with garlic sauce. Serves 8 (1 taco each).

Per serving: 250 calories; 15 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams fat (6 grams saturated); 60 milligrams cholesterol; 1 gram fiber; 0 grams sugar; 420 milligrams sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at



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