Correlates of Protein Intake Among Community Dwelling Older Adults

Meredith E. Sargent and Kelly L. Evola, G. Kevin Randall*, Jeannette Davidson*, Bradley University

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Abstract: Nutritional recommendations, BMI, and quality of life may be uniquely related in a population of older adults. The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for dietary protein in older adults is 0.8 g/ kg of body weight per day, but controversy exists as to whether this amount is adequate. Research findings suggest that the protein turnover rate decreases by the age of 70, resulting in a greater need for protein by older adults. In addition, nutritional studies have suggested a lower mortality rate is associated with overweight BMI ranges in older adults. Last, a relationship between nutritional risk and quality of life has been found in community living elderly adults. To date no studies have been found investigating the relationship between protein intake and various physical and mental health correlates, such as quality of life among community dwelling older adults. Using data collected from a convenience sample of this population, who indicated protein intake of 0.8 -1.6 g/kg and BMIs of 25 and over, we investigated the relationship between protein intake, self-rated physical health, and life regard; analyses controlled for age, sex, and marital status.Results from a hierarchical regression analysis showed that a measure of life regard significantly and positively contributed to Protein Intake. This final model explained 49 percent of the variance.

Multiple changes occur within the body as people age, often with harmful outcomes. Perhaps one of the most evident changes is a loss of skeletal muscle due to a decrease in total body protein that can lead to muscle weakness, falls, and injuries (Chernoff, 2004). This decrease in total body protein also results in a decrease of organ tissue, blood components, and immune system cells. These results can have serious implications including impaired wound healing, decreased skin elasticity, and decreased immune function (Chernoff). It is imperative that older adults meet their protein and energy needs. Without adequate protein intake, the body can adjust, but the result may be muscle mass loss, decreased ability to perform life tasks, and depressed immune function (Chernoff). The ability to perform everyday tasks is especially important to community dwelling older adults as they must be able to take care of themselves and be independent, resulting in higher levels of perceived quality of life (Houston et al., 2008).

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