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Lifespan News – Protein and Muscle

These findings overturn common beliefs.

LSN Protein MuscleLSN Protein Muscle

Emmett Short brings up a study talking about how diets with less protein are connected to better muscle maintenance with aging on this episode of Lifespan News.


You want to know how to stay jacked into your 70s and 80s? Broscientists tell you itโ€™s all about protein.

But a new study done by scientist scientists indicates less protein could help you maintain muscle mass as you age. But before you start slapping steaks out of grandpa’s mouth, youโ€™re gonna want to hear the whole story.

Welcome to Lifespan News. I’m Emmett Short. Today, weโ€™re talking protein and muscle mass. Now for the big controversy. Researchers publishing in Age and Ageing have found that, rather than being protective, an increase in dietary protein is associated with an increased chance of sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is a well-known disorder that occurs with aging. People with sarcopenia lack adequate muscular function, leading to frailty, a higher risk of falls, and a functional decline in daily living activities that leads to a decreased quality of life.

Speaking of decreased quality of life, don’t go vegan just yet. Let’s break down some previous research and look at how this study was conducted.

Previous research has found the phenomenon of anabolic resistance, where muscle protein is more difficult to synthesize for older adults. This led the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism to recommend that older adults consume 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kg of desired body weight a day. Right in line with the Bro Scientists.

By the way, the European society for clinical nutrition and metabolismโ€™s acronym is ESPEN? That makes no sense to me. Where did the P come from? Why is there no M? I like these guys because theyโ€™re telling me to eat protein but Iโ€™m not a fan of their acronym.

Anyway this new study used data from the TwinsUK cohort, a magical registry of almost 15,000 identical and fraternal twins and triplets, and the researchers narrowed in on about 3,300 older adults that had detailed muscular data.

As is usual for this kind of study, there was a lot of murky causal data. Aging is, of course, the primary association, but education, body mass index, and income were all also found to have associations with muscle strength, muscle mass, and sarcopenia. Yea, income and education soโ€ฆ take all this with a pretty big grain of salt.

There was no significant association between muscle strength and protein intake one way or another. Remember weโ€™re talking about over 60 year olds here. But, protein intake below the ESPEN recommendation, so a low protein diet, was significantly correlated with more muscle and less cases of sarcopenia strangely. Add that to the data showing higher protein intake than ESPEN recommended was correlated with less muscle mass and more cases of sarcopenia and we have got ourselves quite a little mystery here.

The statistical relationship between protein intake, and Sarcopenia was even further confirmed when analyzed according to shared twin factors like genetics, early life history and a lot of other variables.

The researchers did speculate about causality. One idea was that the causality might be reversed: that people who suffer from sarcopenia might be eating more protein to try and treat their condition. The researchers thought this was unlikely, because sarcopenia is seldom diagnosed. But you know, you donโ€™t need a doctor to tell you youโ€™re getting thinner if you have a mirror. Just saying.

Another explanation could be that diets that are high in protein might also be high in inflammatory or other negative factors that promote sarcopenia, so it might be the type of protein that was causing the results instead of protein in general.

As suspect as these findings are, this study does throw doubt on the conventional wisdom surrounding protein and sarcopenia, and it might result in re-evaluations of dietary health guidelines. Could be a big deal. Now this is an association study that does not prove causation, but it makes it clear that simply eating more protein is not likely to protect anyone against developing sarcopenia. Exercise may be somewhat effective in fighting back against this disease, but more fundamental biological interventions are likely to be required, AKA pharmaceuticals, to actually prevent it for good.

So, what do you think? Will this study change how much protein you consume? Let us know in the comments. Make sure to subscribe and click the bell so you can stay up to date on aging research. Iโ€™m Emmett Short and weโ€™ll see you next time on Lifespan News!

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CategoryLifespan News, News
  1. h82reply
    March 20, 2023

    This info definitely helps me. Iโ€™m 78 and having been laboring under the belief that Iโ€™m not eat enough protein. So I will no longing have to gag and choke down more protein than I have an appetite forโ€”out of some of duty to my health. Whey is particularly awful.

    BTW, I really like your writing styleโ€”it really connects to the reader.

  2. me
    March 21, 2023

    It is likely due to those consuming less protein being more active and those consuming more protein being more sedintary.

    • ryancn08
      March 21, 2023

      I don’t follow your logic. If anything, I’d expect those being more active to eat more calories and thus to eat more protein in total

  3. Donald Henderson
    March 21, 2023

    According to my impedance scale I have gained fat and lost muscle since I started my high protein diet. Prior to that I was mostly keto for several months. Even though I was losing wt under keto I was gaining muscle. I have been puzzled by this result, however, I have changed many other things too. I have not gotten weaker though.

    • Ally Avey
      April 14, 2023

      I have read this conclusion before with respect to kidn ey disease. It is hard to filter excess protein out of the blood. It is very hard on the kidneys. Here I was taking NSAIDS like they were candy for my migraines and “getting healthy” with my varied morning high protein shakes followed by meat at both lunch and dinner. I now have a GFRof 43 at 72 years old. Not good. I need to eat almost greens all the time…..very hard.

  4. bonkya62
    March 21, 2023

    I shoot for 1/2 my bodyweight in grams of protein per day from both animal and vegetable sources. I’ve been doing it for years and at 60, it seems to be helping me maintain, even regain muscle mass. Aggressive weight training twice weekly certainly helps, too.

  5. iambobww
    March 21, 2023

    Very inconclusive. I’m not changing a thing.

  6. iohealth
    March 21, 2023

    This flies in the face of Dr. Gabrielle Lyonโ€™s recommendations. I am 66 and tried to consume her suggested 30-50 grams of protein at the first meal of the day for 3 months, and found it difficult, and often unappetizing. Now that I have resumed my former way of eating, less meat, more vegetarian, and lighter on initial protein for the day, I feel better overall, and continue to work out with even better results. So what is the proper amount of protein per kg. or lb. of ideal body weight for an active, aging individual?

  7. Maryna Zeider
    March 26, 2023

    What does ESPEN stand for?
    ESPEN was formally established in 1980 as the European Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. It later changed its name to the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.

  8. neil Vasilakes
    March 28, 2023

    Eating more protein activates Mtor. High mtor is pro-aging. Low protein lowers Mtor just as Rapamycin does. Both have been shown to slow aging and turn on autophagy. Autophagy cleans up defective cells and debris and turns on protective genes.

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