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Dietary protein supplementation in the elderly for limiting muscle mass loss


Supplementation with whey and other dietary protein, mainly associated with exercise training, has been proposed to be beneficial for the elderly to gain and maintain lean body mass and improve health parameters. The main objective of this review is to examine the evidence provided by the scientific literature indicating benefit from such supplementation and to define the likely best strategy of protein uptake for optimal objectified results in the elderly. Overall, it appears that an intake of approximately 0.4 g protein/kg BW per meal thus representing 1.2–1.6 g protein/kg BW/day may be recommended taking into account potential anabolic resistance. The losses of the skeletal muscle mass contribute to lower the capacity to perform activities in daily living, emphasizing that an optimal protein consumption may represent an important parameter to preserve independence and contribute to health status. However, it is worth noting that the maximal intake of protein with no adverse effect is not known, and that high levels of protein intake is associated with increased transfer of protein to the colon with potential deleterious effects. Thus, it is important to examine in each individual case the benefit that can be expected from supplementation with whey protein, taking into account the usual protein dietary intake.

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Fig. 1



Lean body mass


Muscle protein breakdown


Mammalian target of rapamycin


Muscle protein synthesis


Insulin growth factor 1


Protein kinase p70S6


Whey protein


Essential amino acids


Branched-chain amino acids


Fractional synthesis rate


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The authors wish to thank the University of Sao Paulo, AgroParisTech, INRA and Université Paris-Saclay for their support.

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Correspondence to Antonio Herbert Lancha Jr. or Francois Blachier.

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The manuscript has not been submitted to other journal for simultaneous consideration. The manuscript, partly or in full, has not been published previously. No data have been fabricated or manipulated (including images) to support our conclusions. No data, text, or theories by others are presented as if they were the author’s own (plagiarism).

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Lancha Jr., A.H., Zanella Jr., R., Tanabe, S.G.O. et al. Dietary protein supplementation in the elderly for limiting muscle mass loss. Amino Acids 49, 33–47 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-016-2355-4

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  • Whey protein
  • High protein diet
  • Anabolic resistance
  • Protein turnover
  • Sarcopenia
  • Aging