Whey protein supports recovery from muscle loss among the elderly
01/26/2019 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Whey protein is one of the most common protein supplements that exercise enthusiasts use to build muscle. Interestingly, this protein supplement has also been found to be beneficial for the elderly. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that whey protein can help seniors rebuild lost muscle from inactivity linked to illness or long hospital stays.

Carried out by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, the study compared the effect of different types of protein supplements on older adults. To do this, the researchers enrolled 16 men and 15 women between the ages of 65 and 80 years old for the double-blind randomized, controlled trial. Older people suffer from sarcopenia, which is the degenerative loss of muscle and strength that can affect balance, gait, and the ability to perform simple daily tasks. They used either whey protein or collagen in a study design meant to simulate enforced inactivity.

Whey contains high amounts of all essential amino acids and is higher in leucine, which is why it is considered a high-quality or complete protein. Collagen, on the other hand, has lower leucine content and lack of essential amino acids. Leucine is the most important amino acid for rebuilding muscle. Another reason researchers used collagen is that it had exhibited some benefits in fighting sarcopenia. (Related: Great Benefits of Whey Protein for Muscle Building.)

For the study, one group consumed whey protein, while the other consumed collagen peptides. For five weeks, the participants' diet was controlled; they had to cut their food intake by 500 calories per day, but increased their protein to 1.6 g/kg. The participants received 30 g of whey protein or collagen peptides twice a day, which made up for about 45 percent of protein intake during the supplementation phases.


During those five weeks, they spent a week in energy balance, then another week for restricting their energy. After these, they reduced their daily steps to 750 steps for two weeks. These were done to imitate how a hospital patient behaves. Then, followed a week of recovery during which the higher protein intake was maintained.

The researchers measured lean leg mass and rates of integrated muscle protein synthesis in both groups.

The researchers expected that those in the collagen group would experience a substantially greater muscle loss than the whey protein group. However, results showed that whey and collagen supplementation failed to reduce muscle loss in the elderly, and there was no difference in the amount of muscle loss.

However, when the participants returned to their normal activities, those in the whey group recovered more skeletal muscle.

"When we consider measures that can be taken to help seniors as they age, it's clear that whey is an important ingredient. Conversely, we should avoid collagen in formulations targeting older people," says Sara Oikawa, one of the authors of the study.

The findings of the study suggest that whey protein is more effective in supporting muscle recovery than collagen among older adults.

Protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplement for senior citizens

Another study conducted by researchers at McMaster University has shown that consuming a drink supplement containing whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, calcium, and fish oil on a regular basis can help boost muscle mass and strength in older people.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, examined two groups of men aged 70 and above. For six weeks, the participants consumed the protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplement without exercise or a placebo. After those six weeks, they continued to take the supplement or placebo while participating in a 12-week progressive exercise training program involving resistance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

The results showed that those who consumed the protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplement experienced improvements in deteriorating muscle health and overall health. These improvements increased when combined with exercise.

The study proved that taking the right supplements alone or in combination with exercise can improve a person's health. Read AgingSecrets.news for more news coverage on anti-aging solutions.

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