News Bites May 2022


Walking Can Preserve Women’s Muscle with Age, No Extra Protein Needed

A trial that asked if milk was better at helping build muscle than a nondairy milk alternative found out that increasing walking was all that was necessary to increase daily muscle protein synthesis.

For three days, twenty-two older women were put on standardized diets that provided the recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) in protein. The participants were then divided into three experimental groups that added either whole milk, skim (non-fat) milk, or a nondairy almond beverage twice a day. On the last three days of the nine-day study, the women added extra physical activity by increasing their step count about 150 percent. This added activity was enough to increase muscle protein synthesis with or without the extra protein in the supplemental beverages.

We tend to lose muscle as we age. It is widely assumed that consuming extra protein helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle loss, but this study is another example of how research does not bear this idea out. Most U.S. adults already get more than the recommended amount of protein in their typical dietary pattern. Protein intake above this amount has not been proven to maintain muscle—but moving more has.

And Speaking of Extra Protein…

According to a study by a firm that provides data to businesses, 41 percent of U.S. adults

Image © a_namenko | Getty Images

indicate they want to eat more protein in their diets—even though all adult age groups already get more than the recommended amount.

This focus on increasing protein intake is not supported by science. Focusing on a generally healthy dietary pattern and other lifestyle shifts, like being more actice, would be much more worthwhile. Evidence-based priorities include eating more minimally processed, fiber- and phytochemical-rich foods, and decreasing highly processed foods high in salt, refined flours, and added sugars.

In this same survey, 35 percent of consumers said they want to eat more fiber. That’s a good idea: increasing the consumption of fiber (particularly the fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains) would be beneficial. Most U.S. adults don’t get enough fiber.

Fruit and Veggie Intake is Well Below Recommendations for U.S. Adults

The results of a 2019 telephone survey of health-related behaviors found that only 12.3 percent of U.S. adults consumed the recommended one-and-a-half to two cup-equivalents of fruit a day, and only 10 percent reported meeting the two to three cup-equivalent daily vegetable intake recommendation (even when fried potatoes were included). [Editor’s Note: In general, a “cup-equivalent” serving is one cup of raw or cooked vegetable or fruit, two cups of raw leafy greens, one-half cup of dried fruit or vegetable, eight ounces of 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or one whole fruit about the size of your fist.] On average, U.S. adults report consuming fruit only once a day and vegetables 1.6 times a day. Hispanic adults were more likely to consume the recommended number of servings of fruit (16.4 percent met recommendations), and adults 51 years of age and older were more likely to consume the recommended number of servings of vegetables (12.5 percent met recommendations). Men and people living below or near the poverty line were at highest risk of falling short.

A dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with better immune function and lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. The study authors stressed the importance of supporting policy changes to ensure all people have access to fruits and vegetables. At a personal level, try adding one fruit and one vegetable serving to your daily intake. And don’t just focus on fresh: consider stocking your freezer with bags of frozen vegetables and fruits, and use them at every opportunity, like adding veggies to tomato sauce, meat loaf, and stews, and tossing fruits in yogurt, cereal, and smoothies. Every little bit counts!

A New Trial Does Not Support Omega-3 (Fish Oil) Supplements to Prevent Depression

Fish oil capsules, which provide omega-3 fatty acids, have not been shown to help prevent depression. Image © Marina Sidorova | Getty Images

A randomized controlled trial found that low-dose supplementation with fish oil (marine omega-3 fatty acids) did not decrease risk for depression in adults aged 50 years or older. Over 18,000 participants, average age 67.5, were randomly assigned to receive either one gram a day fish oil or a placebo for over five years. The participants had no clinically relevant depressive symptoms at the start of the study. There was a small but statistically significant higher risk of clinically relevant symptoms of depression in the fish oil group than the placebo group.


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