Nutrient Optimization

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Whey Protein Can Help Offset Muscle Loss in Elderly People

As we get older our muscle become less responsive to nutrition. This leads to the natural and progressive loss of muscle mass, which subsequently affects body posture and mobility. The existence of muscle is vital for the oxidation of body as well as the buffering blood sugar for energy reserves. Thus, in extreme cases, muscle deterioration with ageing may also lead to insulin resistance or diabetics. Many metabolic processes including would healing and immune system regulation also heavily rely on the amino acids of which muscle act as a reserve. However, the great news is that there have been recent high quality researches in this area which can bring much hope to us all.

Three studies (Yang et al., Pennings et al., and Burd et al.) published in May 2012 suggest that elderly people may benefit from whey protein in the fight to stem muscle losses, which is often known as sarcopenia.

When examining the usage of whey protein in both young and elderly people the two studies by Yang et al. and Pennings et al. suggest that while the young people's response to protein stay unchanged at the moderate dose of of around 20 gram after exercise, older people would need a dose twice as much in order to optimise muscle protein synthesis - the ability to absorb protein in muscle enabling muscle growth.

When higher dose (40 g) was ingested, muscle protein synthesis was increased by 90%. However, these studies also support the notion that a consumption of at least 20 gram of whey protein will help improve the amino acid threshold when the body is resting.  For inactive elderly people, the evidence shows that an ingestion of 35 g of whey protein help improve the rate of amino acid absorption as well as muscle protein synthesis as compared with the ingestion 10 g or 20 g.

So contrary to the traditional belief that when people get older they require less protein, the studies have shown that their requirements for protein fall only because they are unable to utilise the protein effectively. However, their ability to optimise muscle protein synthesis above a certain threshold can increase.

The key factor accounting for the effectiveness of whey protein is the high content of Lucine - an important amino acid that help boost the muscle's ability to absorb protein. While there are suggestions that Leucine can be used to enrich other protein to increase protein efficiency, another recent study by Churchward-Venne et al., only intact whey protein can sustain increased rates of protein synthesis of muscles. This indicates that other factors in whey protein must also contribute to the positive impact of muscle protein synthesis, providing a convincing support for the choice of using whey protein to offset sarcopenia - or widely known as muscle loss with ageing.

These studies have all pointed to the importance of building good habits of nutrient optimization early on for a healthier life later and the key factor in that process is the fast acting protein sources which are naturally high in Leucine such as whey protein. For the elderly people who wish to continue to enjoy a mobile independent and active life the studies have opened huge possibilities, indeed.