The Top 10 Reasons for a High Protein Diet in Seniors


The Top 10 Reasons for a High Protein Diet in Seniors

Studies show that around 27% of seniors in America are eating less protein than they should in order to maintain good physical health[1]. This statistic is particularly troubling because as people age their physical need for protein grows.

On average, people of elderly generations eat less protein than those in younger generations. This happens for many reasons:

    • As we age, our appetites diminish. This can be due to such things as difficulty with dentures, cavities, ineffectual taste buds, depression, side effects of certain medications, and overall illness.
    • Seniors tend to have more trouble digesting food because of a loss of vital digestive enzymes. This results in such discomfort as indigestion and constipation.
    • Seniors that have suffered muscle loss and decreased bone density become frail and therefore have a harder time cooking for themselves.

Certainly there are challenges standing in the way of seniors getting the nutrition and the protein that they need, but why should protein be a concern for aging people anyway? Shouldn’t light exercise and quick-fix foods be enough to ensure their health? Unfortunately, no. There are actually many reasons that a healthy protein intake is vital to the well-being of senior citizens.

Here are the top 10 reasons for seniors to eat diets high in protein:

    1. As people age, it is easy for them to lose significant amounts of muscle. Eating a sufficient amount of protein can help slow down the process of muscle loss. Unfortunately, exercise by itself is not enough to maintain and build muscle. The more protein you eat, the more muscle your body makes. If you aren’t getting enough protein, there really isn’t much for your body to work with.
    2. Even in advanced years it is important for people to stay strong, because physical strength helps to ensure physical health but also mental health. When people age it is still important to them to maintain a certain amount of independence. Being physically strong is just one way to ensure this independence, which boosts morale and self esteem.
    3. Insufficient consumption of protein can lead to Protein Calorie Malnutrition (PCM), which is a severe protein deficiency[2] . This deficiency leads to a delayed wound healing time in addition to a loss of muscle. The human body, even if not outwardly harmed, is constantly undergoing tissue repair and regeneration[3]. If the protein isn’t there to provide for this important and constant bodily renewal then adverse effects are sure to occur.
    4. Protein deficiency and muscle loss can decrease quality of life by further diminishing appetite and the desire to maintain good personal hygiene. The more challenging it is for elderly people to move around by themselves, the less of an incentive they have to be concerned with overall cleanliness and health.
    5. Protein deficiency can have detrimental psychological and psychosocial effects, resulting in a lack of desire for one to engage in social relationships. Seniors can become resentful of others as they age if they don’t feel confident in their own strength and basic independence.
    6. Studies show that higher levels of protein intake for seniors can lower the risk of hip fractures[4].
    7. Protein also helps to build strong muscles in legs which helps to increase strength and therefore decrease the chance of falling. This muscle also accounts for better balance which further reduces the chance of accidental falls.
    8. The acquisition of muscle strengthens bones themselves. Having muscle in your body puts tension on your bones and causes them to become stronger.
    9. As muscle builds on your body it becomes an additional means of protection for your bones, should you fall. It works sort of like a protective padding that no one would want to be without in the case of an accidental slip.
    10. Lack of blood proteins can result in clinical edema and tissue swelling. Edema is a serious condition that should be avoided, and sufficient protein intake can help in this endeavor.

Overall, studies show that people who are consuming a sufficient amount of protein tend to have a longer lifespan and better quality of life. It’s for this reason that we at SYNERGY HomeCare recommend a diet that includes adequate amounts of protein for any and all seniors.

[1] © 2011 Arthritis Foundation

[2] © 2008-2011 Baseline Nutritionals®

[3] © 1995-2011 AARP

[4] © 2011 Better Health Research

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