Why Granny Needs Protein Not Presents This Christmas

Protein is an important nutrient at all ages, but as we age inadequate levels of protein are common and can have serious health consequences.

Christmas is traditionally a time when families come together to eat, celebrate and exchange presents. Small children will be excited to see what Santa has left them, whilst the grown ups receive an assortment of gifts from the useful, sensible, and much desired, to the bizarre, unwanted and occasionally tasteless! But of the many gifts exchanged Christmas morning I doubt whether Whey Protein for granny is among them. Yet this, rather than another tin of shortbread, socks or slippers, could improve the quality of life for your elderly relatives.

Older adults have quite specific nutritional needs in order to prevent accelerated ageing, maximise quality of life, and reduce the risks or conditions associated with age

Who are we referring to as an ‘older’ adult though? Surprisingly anyone over the age of fifty is potentially vulnerable to age related deterioration, so those at or approaching midlife need to consider appropriate interventions before they become ‘elderly’.

Muscle mass declines 1% each year from peak. This peak will be different and unique to everyone depending on exercise and training history and lifestyle. However, in women the decline is especially significant after the menopause and can lead to a condition called Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia affects men and women and is characterised by a loss of muscle mass, strength and performance. Over the age of 50 some 57% of women will be affected by sarcopenia.

The consequences of Sarcopenia can be serious, life limiting and lead to significant physical decline. It’s through the action of skeletal muscle that we are able to walk, lift a kettle, get up from a chair, climb the stairs, play sport and simply move each day. When muscles become weaker and smaller we are unable to perform the most basic of daily functions with ease. The first warning sign that something is amiss may be a fall.

Falls and fractures are a common and serious health issue faced by older adults, and those aged 65 and older have the highest risk of falling

Alarmingly around a third of people aged 65 and over, and around half of people aged 80 and over, fall at least once a year. Falling is a cause of distress, pain, injury, loss of confidence, loss of independence and mortality.

This is where Whey Protein for your granny comes in. Consuming an adequate amount of dietary protein is essential to optimal health, the benefits of protein include healthy skin and hair, increased satiety which assists weight management, improved immune function, and muscle retention. However, granny may not be getting adequate amounts of protein due to several factors. Firstly, something known as anabolic resistance means granny’s muscles are not as responsive to protein as they were when she was younger. Secondly, the amount of protein required to trigger the process by which growth, repair and maintenance of muscle takes place may be harder to achieve for granny. Finally a number of age related issues such as changes in taste and smell, reduced appetite, illness, medications and difficulties swallowing means granny may not be eating very much of anything, including protein.

Whey Protein can assist with total protein intake in one sitting. Granny may have difficulty eating a sufficient amount of turkey on Christmas Day, to hit the recommended 0.4 – 0.6g/kg protein serving at least once during her day. However, if she drinks a glass of Whey Protein alongside her Christmas lunch she may find this more palatable and appealing than a larger serving of turkey.

Alongside Whey Protein there are two supplements which can reduce the risk of developing sarcopenia

These are Fish Oils and Creatine. New research continues to emerge into the numerous health benefits of Fish Oils in our diet but we already know these include cardiovascular benefits and the reduction of inflammation in the body. In addition Fish Oils have been shown to increase muscle sensitivity, strength and function. In order to achieve the recommended level of Fish Oils through her diet, granny would need to eat as much as a whole salmon a day! With this in mind adding a Fish Oil supplement to her presents under the Christmas tree might be a more practical solution.

Creatine is the final little Christmas gift we should package up for granny. As one of the world’s most researched supplements Creatine is known to assist muscular strength, size and performance in athletes and bodybuilders. Creatine isn’t just for the sporting elite though. Supplementation in older adults has shown the important role Creatine plays as we age, enhancing muscle mass gain, strength and functional performance.

If we couple these nutritional recommendations with getting our granny lifting weights, and engaging in resistance training, then we will be doing everything we can to help her enjoy a good quality of life in her twilight years.

Whey Protein, Fish Oil and Creatine are like Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for granny. You don’t need a star to guide you but it takes a Wise (Wo)Man to know their value.