PROMISS research recommends higher protein intake to prevent malnutrition in old age

Across Europe, one out of five older adults living at home is malnourished, or at risk of protein-energy malnutrition. Improving protein intake might be of benefit to the prevention of malnutrition, as revealed the EU-funded PROMISS project, in which AGE is involved.

Many older persons today do not meet the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein intake, which may lead to mobility limitations, loss of muscle strength, and increases the risks of chronic protein-energy malnutrition. There is increasing evidence that adequate protein intake is crucial in old age, which makes recognition of low protein intake key, and interventions to prevent malnutrition essential. These are the issues at the core of the PROMISS research.

The PROMISS project successfully recorded accurate protein intake data from a unique and largely understudied age group, capturing characteristics of older adults at risk, food intake, including protein rich food products, timing of intake over the day and nutritional quality of their diets. The project results suggest that higher protein intake in older persons may preserve muscle strength and physical performance and prevent the development of malnutrition. These results also suggest that the RDA of protein intake (≥0.8 g/kg/d) might be too low and that a protein of ≥1.0 g/kg/d might be better.

Older adults at risk

Most of the protein intake is consumed at lunch (about 35%) and at dinner (about 21%). PROMISS shows that cconsumption of at least 20g of protein (for example 3 slices of bread with cheese or ham, or 200 g cooked pasta and 2 eggs) within any one eating occasion was predictive for a protein intake ≥0.8 g/kg/d (RDA). These results suggest that dietary strategies should focus on achieving at least a protein intake of 20g on one eating occasion. In persons with a protein intake according to the RDA, meat and meat products contributed 6% more to protein intake, while cereals and cereal products contributed less to protein intake. Higher consumption of cereals and cereal products, meat and meat products, and milk and milk products was associated with a lower chance of having a low protein intake.

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