Protein supplements may slow functional decline in the elderly

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Protein supplements may slow functional decline in the elderly
Frail older people may benefit from a daily protein supplement suggests new data from a randomized controlled trial that showed a reduction in the progression of functional decline.

Older people with low socioeconomic status often suffer from chronic under-nutrition, and it is an important component of frailty. It can result in functional disability – anything that limits a person's ability to do physical activity, is a mental illness, or that requires long-term care.

According to new findings published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A​, a protein-energy supplement may help such a group, with the supplement linked to improvements in physical functioning.

“The intervention in this study may provide the small increase in physiologic capacity, such as nitrogen kinetics, that will allow a relatively large effect on functional performance among severely frail older adults,”​ wrote Chang-O Kim and Kyung-Ryun Lee from Gangbuk-gu Community Health Center in Seoul.

Study details

The Korean researchers recruited 87 frail older adults to participate in their randomized controlled trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either the protein-energy supplement (additional 400 kcal of energy, 25g of protein, 9.4g of essential amino acids, 400mL of water) or a control beverage for 12 weeks.

Results of the Physical Functioning and Short Physical Performance Battery indicated that the intervention group displayed an average increase in physical functioning of 5.9%, while no changes were observed in the control group.

In addition, the usual gait speed decreased by only 1.0% in the intervention group compared with an 11.3% decrease in the control group.

 “The external validity of this study is limited,”​ wrote the researchers. “It is unclear whether consistent results can be reached in persons with higher socioeconomic status and/or better physical performance.

“However, […] frail older adults with low socioeconomic status are an important subgroup in the perspective of healthcare policy; they are most likely to be the recipients of state-level programs and policies to reduce functional limitation and reduce the need for institutional care.”

Source: The Journals of Gerontology: Series A
Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 309-316, doi: 10.1093/gerona/gls167
“Preventive Effect of Protein-Energy Supplementation on the Functional Decline of Frail Older Adults With Low Socioeconomic Status: A Community-Based Randomized Controlled Study”
Authors: Chang-O Kim and Kyung-Ryun Lee

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