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Protein is the most important nutrient. But does the amount we need change as we age?

Updated on:8 October 2021, 18:13pm IST
As you age, there are numerous changes that occur in your body. Therefore, optimal protein intake becomes even more important.
Aayushi Gupta
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fatty liver
Protein plays a crucial role in the functioning of the body, across age groups. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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What if we tell you that protein is the most important nutrient that your body needs? Yes ladies, it’s true! It’s not just needed for your muscle and bones, it has a lot to do with your health. And if you are deficient in protein, it might take a toll on your health in several ways. You might witness weight gain, lower bone density, hair fall, skin problems, a weak immune system, and much more! 

Protein can be rightly termed the building block of life. We have all grown up hearing this. Haven’t we? But do protein needs change as you age? Well, we know a high-protein diet is important for everyone, especially for seniors. But before we discuss more about it, let’s first understand why protein is required for our body and how it is beneficial for our health. 

Priya Palan, a dietitian at Zen Multispeciality Hospital explains the various benefits of protein and why you need it. 

Here are 6 reasons why you need to include protein in your diet: 
1. Controls appetite

Protein lowers the level of the hunger hormone ghrelin and boosts the levels of leptin, a fullness hormone. If you are looking to battle the bulge, just add adequate proteins with complex carbs and fats to your diet.

2. Builds muscle mass and strength

Protein helps you maintain your muscle mass by lowering the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

3. Promotes good bone health

If you have enough protein, you will be able to keep your bones strong and healthy, thereby avoiding osteoporosis.

Also, read: Confused about the kind of protein bar to pick? Here’s how to make your choice

4. Curbs food cravings

Do you find it difficult to control your cravings? Looking for various ways to beat your cravings? You need to include a good amount of protein in your diet. The right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats is important to achieve food control.

how protein need changes as you age
Eat protein and put a full stop to your cravings. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
5. Boosts metabolism

A good amount of protein boosts metabolism and helps you burn enough calories.

6. Weight loss

Yes, protein-rich diets help one reduce cravings, thereby keeping you satiated for longer hours.

Here’s why older adults require more protein than younger adults

Protein is one of the foundational nutrients that make up your body. In fact, every cell in your body relies on protein to function — skin, hair, nails, muscle, bones, and internal organs. Not just that, protein is also essential for healing, building, and repairing cells and body tissue. Without protein, your body starts to break down muscle mass and bone strength. All in all, be it getting in shape or boosting immunity, protein has a role to play in every aspect of our lives. 

Also, read: Plant-based protein vs whey protein: Dr Mickey Mehta reveals what’s better

But when you age, the need for protein in the body increases. Wonder why? Well, dietitian, Palan tells us why . 

She says, “Ageing is a process when a person sees deterioration in the body and is unable to maintain muscle mass, strength, and bone health. If protein intake reduces, it makes the elderly more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures. Thus a diet must supplement enough protein to preserve muscle strength.” 

She adds, “It is imperative for older adults to monitor their daily protein intake or take the help of an expert.”

how protein need changes as you age
Stay high on protein to save yourself from muscle loss in your old-age. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
You can add these protein-rich foods to your daily diet, recommends dietitian Palan

Foods such as eggs, fish, milk and its products, chicken, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, soymilk, tofu, nuts and seeds, oats, broccoli, quinoa, spirulina, peanuts are great sources of protein, which can help you meet your ideal recommended dietary allowance. 

The ideal Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein

Dietitian Palan explains that protein requirements are based on various factors: age, physical activity, weight, and metabolic stress. An average adult person needs 0.8 to 1 gm of protein per kg ideal body weight. Protein requirement varies at different stages of the life cycle, it is higher in the growth periods such as childhood, adolescents, pregnancy, lactation, and old age.

However, it is a good idea to consult an expert who will guide you properly about the right quantity of protein and the kind of sources that are ideal for you!

Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.