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Protein for the Elderly, and the Healthy too

As the human body ages, everything slows down.

You’ve probably stopped to wonder, how do we prevent this slow, progressive, degeneration of function from robbing us off quality years with our families?

Unfortunately, as we age, there is an inevitable decline in cognitive and social function. And now a days, due to increasing life expectancies in many countries, how can we help the elderly not be a burden to their loved ones, and to society?


Well, recent research shows that a diet high in protein, particularly animal protein, may help elderly individuals maintain a higher level of physical, psychological, and social function for longer. This was the finding in one study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

P6026033-002 Grilled Australian grass fed beef tenderloin with Napoli style Linguine and roasted Vegetables

This can have profound effects on the health and well-being of older adults and their caregivers, as well as on health care resources.

Research suggests that as people age, their ability to absorb or process protein may decline. To compensate for this loss, protein requirements may increase with age.  In a large study looking at 1007 individuals, Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi et. al. of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan looked at protein intake, and how it affected functional capabilities of older adults. In the Men, the group taking the highest amount of protein, showed a 39% decrease in  higher-level functional decline than those in the lowest protein group.


Meat & Livestock Australia’s Senior Nutrition Manager, Veronique Droulez on why protein rich foods such as Australian beef can be a solution for healthy aging…

In a large European trial called The Diogenes project, that looked at obesity and how to seek out new insights and routes to prevention, the findings were promising. The results were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this trial of 1209 obese adults, a modest increase in protein content and a modest reduction in the glycemic index (i.e. substituting bad carbs for good carbs) led to an improvement in study completion and maintenance of weight loss.

So which means to say that, if you want to lose weight or avoid gaining weight, you should cut down on finely refined starch calories such as white bread and white rice and instead eat a diet that is high in proteins with more lean meat, low-fat dairy products and beans.

Example of a day’s menu for a high-protein, low-GI diet

Breakfast: Low-fat yogurt with muesli (without added sugar), wholegrain crispbread with low-fat cheese, an orange

Morning: Vegetable sticks and low-fat cheese sticks

Lunch: Wholegrain rye bread with grilled lean Australian grass fed lamb or beef, or chicken cold cuts, or mackerel in tomato sauce and lightly blanched vegetables

Afternoon: Wholegrain rye bread with low-fat liver pâté and cucumber

Dinner: Stir-fried Chicken or lean Australian grass fed lamb or beef with vegetables and wholegrain pasta; avocado salad with feta cheese and sugar peas

Drink water if you can with all meals, otherwise opt for low-fat milk if you are not lactose intolerant.  The recommended intake of protein is 1.3g/kg body weight. 


And while protein is important in the elderly, the source of protein is important too. Of course the debate on whether we should eat Animal protein or plant protein will open up another can of worms, but let’s just say for now that Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids. So if you are not vegetarian, then getting in the right amount of good quality red meat is beneficial for the aging adult.


Proteins in food are made of amino acids. Some amino acids, called nonessential amino acids, your body can make, while others, called essential amino acids, you have to get from your diet. The nonessential amino acids include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid. Usually, amino acids such as arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine and tyrosine are nonessential, except during periods of illness and stress. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. These are readily found in red meat. i.e. Steak and Lamb.


We were recently invited to a talk at Makan Kitchen, DoubleTree Hilton KL, and shown that one good source of not just amino acids but also polyunsaturated fats and Omega3, is grass fed Australian Meat & LifeStock. So making this a part of your diet will ensure you get the beneficial fats, as well as protein your body needs. It’s good for you, whether or not you are aging really.


In Australia, cattle are predominantly pasture-fed, producing leaner beef that contains healthier types of fat, including Omega 3.


Australian grass fed beef cooked the perfect medium rare

Health problems in aging can range from overweight to underweight.  Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is critical because it allows people to enjoy an active, independent life. That’s why one should use the best cuts, cooking methods and ingredients to make satisfying, balanced meals for healthy aging no matter what their shape or size.

A recent survey found that increasing consumer demand for lean meat has led to a greater range of lean red cuts now available to choose from in stores. The average fat content of these popular cuts is:

Lean beef 4 g of fat/100 g
Lean lamb 6 g of fat/100 g
Lean veal 2 g of fat/100 g


 Chinese beef short ribs and daikon soup with red dates and wolfberries

When trimmed of visible fat, Australian Beef is lean and relatively low in unhealthy saturated fats. In fact, almost two-thirds of the fat in lean beef is the healthy, unsaturated kind, including long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids. Lean Australian Beef is an important source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and provides more iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and other nutrients than poultry, pork or fish.


Szhechuan style braised lamb shank with lotus roots, bamboo shoots and coriander served with rice and vegetables

Some still believe too much beef can cause high cholesterol or heart problems. This is due to the false perception that beef is high in total fat and saturated fat, two key factors known to raise blood cholesterol levels. Actually, the main source of total fat and saturated fat in Western countries, and their diet is not beef, but rather fast foods, snacks, oils, spreads, processed foods and the visible fat on untrimmed meat.

Protein and Fat

Fat content differs more noticeably, with lean beef and lean pork containing the lowest amount at 3.8 g/100 g and 3.9 g/100 g respectively, and fresh fish containing the highest at 6.8 g/100 g of fat. In terms of Omega 3 (Linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosapentaenoic acid), fresh fish contains the highest levels at 0.2 g/100 g, with lean lamb and beef next at 0.16 g/100 g, and 0.11 g/100 g respectively.


Iron – The richest source of iron is lean lamb and beef (2.2 mg/100 g and 2.0 mg/100 g respectively), with more than double the levels found in skinless chicken, lean pork and fresh fish.
Zinc – Beef and lamb contain the most zinc (4.2 mg/100 g and 3.7 mg/100 g), more than double the levels found in skinless chicken and lean pork. Fresh fish contains only an eighth of the zinc levels found in beef.


Riboflavin – Lamb contains the highest levels of riboflavin (0.23 mg/100 g), with skinless chicken containing the least (0.13 mg/100 g).
Vitamin B12 – Lean beef and lamb contain the highest levels of vitamin B12 (1.1 mcg/100 g each), followed closely by fresh fish (1.0 mcg/100 g). Pork and skinless chicken contain the lowest levels.


Makan Kitchen,
Doubletree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur
The Intermark, 348 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel:+ 60 3 2172 7272
Fax:+60 3 2172 7270


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2 Responses to Protein for the Elderly, and the Healthy too

  1. macky June 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    “Where’s the beef?” hahaha…Good article. This got me craving for bulalo and t-bone steak.

    • ciki June 6, 2014 at 7:45 am #

      Haha.. Thanks Macky.. I feel like some steak this weekend too! 🙂

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