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Ask Tufts Experts January 2015 Issue

Q. I read in your newsletter that older people may need more protein than the recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to maintain muscle mass as they age. How much more, at age 75, might I need? Is 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight too much?

A. Martha Morris, PhD, a scientist in Tufts’ HNRCA Nutritional Epidemiology Program who has studied protein, responds: “Consuming 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (2.2 pounds) is within the range of current recommendations. [The RDA for adult men is 56 grams and 46 grams for women.] In our study, we found no advantage to exceeding 0.8 to 1.0 grams protein per kilogram of body weight for non-obese study participants. However, obese study participants who exceeded that intake range had significantly greater muscle mass than obese participants who merely met the recommendation. Because the recommendation is based on body weight, it is difficult for obese people to consume enough protein to meet the recommendation. Thus, obese people may need to concentrate on protein. For non-obese study participants, the most important message from our study pertained to vigorous aerobic activity. The seniors who performed this kind of activity had high muscle mass regardless of their protein intake category.”

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