As people age, the loss of muscle mass can result in complications such as insulin resistance because muscles play a role in body fat oxidation and buffering blood sugar levels for energy reserves. Muscles also act as a reserve of amino acids which can be used in many metabolic processes, including wound healing and regulating the immune system.
Three studies by Yang et al, Pennings et al. and Burd et al have reinforced evidence that whey protein can play a role in the diet of seniors whose muscles are known to be less responsive to nutrition. These studies showed that whey protein consistently overcame this blunted response: a potential aid in offsetting sarcopenia.
New findings include: the optimal amount needed to increase muscle protein synthesis at rest was a 20g portion; with resistance exercise, consumption of 40g of whey protein showed the best results because muscle protein synthesis was uprated; compared with the same dose of other high-quality proteins, whey protein supported greater rates of muscle protein synthesis, possibly due to its rapid digestion and high Leucine concentration, a potent stimulator of muscle protein synthesis.
Whey protein supplier Volac's nutrition manager for lifestyle ingredients, Suzane Leser, said:
"These studies may contribute to debunk previous concepts that, as people get older, they would require less protein as they would be unable to utilise any increase and therefore their protein requirements would probably fall.
"About 50% of age-related muscle loss is down to environmental factors, and as we learn that older people would particularly benefit from eating 40g high-quality protein around a strength exercise routine, the industry has an opportunity here to offer convenient high-protein products for seniors to support them in a lifelong active lifestyle."