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Low protein intake, physical activity, and physical function in European and North American community-dwelling older adults; a pooled analysis of four longitudinal again cohorts

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nuno Mendonca, Emerita Professor Carol Jagger



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


ABSTRACT BackgroundDietary protein may slow the decline in muscle mass and function with aging, making it a sensible candidate to prevent or modulate disability progression. At present, studies providing reliable estimates of the association between protein intake and physical function, and its interaction with physical activity (PA), in community-dwelling older adults are lacking.ObjectivesWe investigated the longitudinal relation between protein intake and physical function, and the interaction with PA.MethodsWe undertook a pooled analysis of individual participant data from cohorts in the PROMISS (PRevention Of Malnutrition In Senior Subjects in the European Union) consortium (the Health Aging and Body Composition Study, Quebec Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging, Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, and Newcastle 85+) in which 5725 community-dwelling older adults were followed up to 8.5 y. The relation between protein intake and walking speed was determined using joint models (linear mixed-effects and Cox proportional hazards models) and the relation with mobility limitation was investigated using multistate models.ResultsHigher protein intake was modestly protective of decline in walking speed in a dose-dependent manner [e.g., protein intake ≥1.2 compared with 0.8 g/kg adjusted body weight (aBW)/d: β = 0.024, 95% CI: 0.009, 0.032 SD/y], with no clear indication of interaction with PA. Participants with protein intake ≥0.8 g/kg aBW/d had also a lower likelihood of incident mobility limitation, which was observed for each level of PA. This association seemed to be dose-dependent for difficulty walking but not for difficulty climbing stairs. No associations between protein intake and other mobility limitations transitions were observed.ConclusionsHigher daily protein intake can reduce physical function decline not only in older adults with protein intake below the current RDA of 0.8 g/kg BW/d, but also in those with a protein intake that is already considered sufficient. This dose-dependent association was observed for each level of PA, suggesting no clear synergistic association between protein intake and PA in relation to physical function.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mendonça N, Hengeveld LM, Visser M, Presse N, Canhão H, Simonsick EM, Kritchevsky SB, Newman AB, Gaudreau P, Jagger C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Year: 2021

Volume: 114

Issue: 1

Pages: 29-41

Print publication date: 01/07/2021

Online publication date: 07/04/2021

Acceptance date: 09/02/2021

Date deposited: 20/06/2022

ISSN (print): 0002-9165

ISSN (electronic): 1938-3207

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab051


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Funder referenceFunder name
CIHR; MOP-62842
FRQ; 2020-VICO-279753
R124/0509Dunhill Medical Trust
the Merck-Frosst Chair funded by La Fondation de l'Université de Sherbrooke