Protein malnutrition is a severe problem among older adults living at home in Europe. According to the European Food Safety Authority, older persons need 0.83g protein/kg body weight/day. More than a quarter of older persons do not meet this recommendation.
Inadequate protein intake can accelerate the decline in muscle mass and strength and have a negative effect on the immune system. Together with insufficient physical activity, inadequate protein is associated with a greater risk of mobility limitations.
Therefore, healthy ageing needs both sufficient protein and physical activity.
How much protein should you advise for your older patients?
The European funded project PROMISS (www.promiss-vu.eu) investigated whether a protein intake higher than 0.8 g per kg body weight per day would be beneficial for the physical functioning of older persons. Based on the research findings, it is recommended to eat at least 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram adjusted body weight per day. Further, older adults should be advised to consume at least 30 grams of protein in one meal per day and, if possible, in two meals.
How can you help older adults to eat more protein?
- Use the Protein Screener (www.proteinscreener.nl), a validated on-line test to identify the risk of protein malnutrition in people 55+.
- Encourage regular monitoring of actual protein intake, for example by using a (digital) diary, and provide older adults with a list of the protein content of food products. PROMISS made available such a protein table in multiple languages.
- Make older adults aware that one meal with a good protein source per day is insufficient.
- Increase protein intake gradually and use products with a high protein density, especially high-protein drinks, to avoid feelings of fullness and bloating.
- Provide a recipe book with protein-rich recipes, as older adults find it difficult to adapt their habitual recipes to increase the protein content of their diet.
- Use protein-enriched food products such as drinks, soups or bars, to increase protein intake when appetite is poor or with a vegetarian diet.
- When advising on the use of non-familiar protein-enriched food products, such as protein powder, it is important to give practical tips on how to use the product in the habitual diet (preparation method, using it in e.g. dairy products, desserts).
- Provide them with the PROMISS brochure for older people and a protein table, both available in multiple languages: https://www.promiss-vu.eu/community/older-persons/
A brochure for general practitioners and family physicians is available for download at the PROMISS website: https://www.promiss-vu.eu/community/health-professionals/
For more information, please contact AGE Platform Europe.