FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR DR GOVIND SHUKLA, NUTRITION EXPERT

Govind Shukla, Specializes in Pharmacology, Toxicology, Nutraceuticals & Herbal Drugs has published More than 50 research papers in National & International Journals. He is also a reviewer of International Journal of Pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, Chief editor of IJPNR Journal & Freelance Medical Writer for Different publication Groups including Lambert Academic Publishing Saarbrucken, Germany.

The Importance of Protein, Especially In The Elderly

Protein is an essential macronutrient that must be consumed in the diet throughout life. The reason for this is that 8 of its total of 20 constituent amino acids (the basic units that are linked together to form proteins) cannot be made by the body from other metabolites and, therefore, have to be obtained from food. For this reason they are referred to as essential amino acids. The amino acids are: leucine, valine, isoleucine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, threonine, methionine and lysine. In addition to these, 6 other amino acids are considered as semi-essential because although the body is capable of synthesizing them from other metabolites, the amount that can be produced may not always be sufficient to satisfy needs in specific situations (such as during an infection). These semi-essential amino acids are cysteine, tyrosine, arginine, histidine and glutamine. The remaining 6 (glycine, alanine,proline, asparagine, aspartate and glutamate) can always be synthesised in adequate amounts. Protein is required for many specific functions in the body, the overall purpose is to build and maintain the tissues of the body – both structurally (as in the case of muscle, connective tissue, blood vessels, skin and internal organs) and functionally (such as digestive enzymes, metabolic enzymes, haemoglobin, antibodies and peptide hormones).

Protein needs expressed per kg body weight change little during adult life (recommended dietary intake for adults above the age of 18 years are 0.8 g dietary protein per kg body weight). However, with increasing age, there is a commensurate decrease in the efficiency of digestion, a gradual but continuous decrease in muscle mass (muscle wasting) and an increase in the risk of infection – all of which require higher protein levels to overcome or compensate for them. it is suggested that the recommendation for protein intake for older people should be increased by around 10%–20% (i.e. be between 0.9–1.0 g protein per kg body weight instead of the current 0.8g per kg body weight for all adults above the age of 18 years.

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