Are There Changing Protein Requirements For Seniors?

Smiling Asian senior man and woman sitting at table drinking glasses of milk and looking at each other. Cheerful Elderly couple enjoying healthy salad food while having breakfast at home.

Youth, it is said, is wasted on the young. Too busy figuring life they hardly take the time to appreciate it. Fortunately, with medical research and scientific progress, lifespans have doubled over the past century. We can now start life at fifty and have another go at youth. Health consciousness, appropriate diet and exercise, can make the later years of life a pleasant experience.


Dietary principles play as especially important role in this respect. Compensating for the physiological changes of aging, they can give us better odds at achieving our genetically determined lifespans. The advancing years experience a intricate interplay of changes affecting the brain, body, and the environment. A decrease in protein turnover, like that seen in aging, has far reaching effects.

Vital organ systems such as the lungs and heart slow down, becoming incapable of further exertion. Neural processes like consideration, preparation and cognition are also influenced. The immune system gets weak, demonstrating a delay and difficultly in managing infections. Wound healing and repair, which requires a constant supply of amino acids, can also be compromised. Another issue related to aging is the decreased capacity to handle free radical species. These highly reactive molecules are produced by cells under pressure.

Free radicals

These may precipitate a chain reaction, damaging cell membranes and the genetic code. They’ve been implicated in many different disease processes from disease, heart attacks and cancer. This inability to deal with free radicals is also in charge of aging. Merely supplying proteins through regular diets don’t meet the distinctive demands of the elderly.

A protein supplement is often needed to ensure easy digestion, rapid absorption and assimilation. The protein supplement should also be of high quality and contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantity. Such a supplement can satisfactorily provide essential amino acids despite the gut’s ability to assimilate them.

This type of protein supplement will have the ability to deal with growth protein demand and malnutrition found in the older, restoring the ability to build and repair tissues. A fantastic protein supplement also has other important benefits in the elderly that often go unrecognized.

High protein diet

A high protein diet has a ‘thermogenic’ or fat-burning effect. The body spends more energy to assimilate protein compared to carbs or fats. This energy is often derived from the adipose tissue, thus burning fat in exchange for protein. Then if the protein supplement has whey in it, then it may also inhibit cholesterol absorption from the gut, reducing the risk of obesity and coronary disease.

Protein supplements which have casein can form a clot in the gut, thereby slowing down intestinal motility and giving the gut sufficient time to absorb all of the amino acids in a meal. This property is important considering that aging also slows down and compromises digestion. Protein supplements that combine casein with whey multiply the benefits of each component.

Good to know

Both casein and whey protein have a group of compounds called kinins that could lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Both proteins enhance the immune system through several mechanisms. Lactoferrin, in whey protein, binds iron and depriving many micro-organisms of a growth stimulation. Free iron induces the formation of free radicals and is one factor responsible for colon cancer. Additionally, this is prevented by protein supplements which contain lactoferrin (whey). Whey also has other antioxidants to give.

It’s full of cysteine, a precursor of Glutathione that’s powerful at mopping up free radicals. This generalized improvement in antioxidant capacity can counter aging and cancerous processes seen in the later years of life. Whey protein is also known to increase memory since it promotes the synthesis of a neurotransmitter, serotonin that’s involved in cognition and thought.


Milk basic protein, a part of whey, has the capacity to stimulate proliferation and differentiation of bone forming cells in addition to suppress bone resorption as found in vitro and animal research. Thus there’s extensive medical literature in support of a high protein, casein and whey supplement in the older population. These studies also have failed to document any significant adverse effects with long-term consumption of such supplements.

This type of supplement can go a long way in creating the later years of life more productive and fruitful. Founded in 2001, Protica, Inc. is a nutritional research firm with offices in Lafayette Hill and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Protica manufactures capsulized foods, including Profect, a compact, hypoallergenic, ready-to-drink protein beverage containing zero carbohydrates and zero fat.