Attention Seniors: Don't worry about cutting back on that steak, eggs, or bacon. That's the upshot of new research that finds high-protein diets help older people function at higher levels mentally, physically, and socially.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggests animal protein is particularly helpful in keeping senior sharp as they age.
"Identifying nutritional factors that contribute to maintaining higher-level functional capacity is important for prevention of future deterioration of activities of daily living," said Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, who conducted the study with colleagues at Tohoku University and Teikyo University. "Along with other modifiable health behaviors, keeping higher protein intake could contribute to maintain elderly functional capacity."
The researchers noted aging may reduce the body's ability to absorb or process proteins, which could mean that protein requirements increase with age. Their study tracked the diets and overall health of 1,007 men and women, with an average age of 67.4 years, who completed food questionnaires at the start of the study and seven years later.
Participants were also subjected to tests of their higher-level functional capacity, including social and intellectual skills, as well as measures related to activities of daily living.
Men whose diets had the highest levels of animal protein were nearly 40 percent less likely to experience cognitive declines than those with the lowest protein intake levels. No consistent association was noted between diets high in plant proteins and cognitive declines in either sex.
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