For older adults, consuming an adequate amount of protein may help to lower age-related inflammation. According to Tufts researchers, protein may be a way to not only lose weight or build muscle mass, but also to slow down the progression of age-related inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is thought to be a significant characteristic of aging, and many older adults suffer from illness and disease as a result. This new research shows a way to support a healthy, anti-inflammatory process without the use of drugs or surgery.
Epidemiologists Adela Hruby and Paul F. Jacques, researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, added to their previous research and found that adults around the age of sixty, whose diets included adequate protein, showed fewer signs of “inflammaging.”
These results were shown in those who consumed more protein from plants than animal proteins. Although there was no improvement associated with higher consumption of animal protein alone, it is essential to note that participants consumed both plant and animal protein.
Inflammaging is a term that doctors have come to call low-grade, age-related chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is commonly associated with frailty and illness such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
The data for the research, which was published in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition, came from 2,106 participants of the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring Cohort, adults participating in a long-term study of cardiovascular disease. Participants involved in the study were required to fill out food questionnaires, which the researchers used to compare their composite inflammation scores against their protein intake.
Hruby and Jacques spoke about why they wanted to do this kind of study, saying, “To our knowledge, no study thus far has examined the impact of regular protein intake over a long period and the effect it may have on measurable markers of age-related inflammation and oxidative stress. Our goal was to assess how habitual protein intake in a sample of generally healthy, aging adults might affect the changes we see in chronic inflammation.”
As part of their research, Jacques and Hruby categorized inflammaging by combining nine common biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation to create a composite score. Similar to inflammaging, oxidative stress is associated with aging and related illnesses.
The overall message from the study was as the researchers had hoped. Consuming more protein, particularly plant-based protein, was shown to reduce age-related inflammation.
Hruby spoke about the recommended daily amount of protein, stating that, “The recommended daily amount of protein for adults is calculated based on several factors, including age, weight, and gender. As a broad example, an average 165-pound adult would need 60 grams of protein per day—about the equivalent found in three cans of tuna or four containers of Greek yogurt. For plant protein sources, a cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein, and a quarter cup of almonds has 6 grams.”
“While most study participants were consuming adequate amounts of protein, those who took in a bit more were doing better in terms of their inflammation status. Our research suggests that including enough protein in the diets of older adults, especially from plant sources, may help reduce the burden of frailty, sickness, and disease that is associated with the chronic inflammation of aging.”
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