Diet modeling in older Americans: The impact of increasing plant-based foods or dairy products on protein intake

Abstract

Objectives

To determine the effects of increasing plant-based foods or dairy products on protein intake in older Americans by performing diet modeling.

Design

Data from What We Eat in America (WWEIA), the dietary component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2010 for Americans aged 51 years and older (n=5,389), divided as 51-70 years (n=3,513) and 71 years and older (n=1,876) were used.

Measurements

Usual protein intake was compared among three dietary models that increased intakes by 100%: (1) plant-based foods; (2) higher protein plant-based foods (i.e., legumes, nuts, seeds, soy); and (3) dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt). Models (1) and (2) had commensurate reductions in animal-based protein intake.

Results

Doubling intake of plant-based foods (as currently consumed) resulted in a drop of protein intake by approximately 22% for males and females aged 51+ years. For older males and females, aged 71+ years, doubling intake of plant-based foods (as currently consumed) resulted in an estimated usual intake of 0.83±0.02 g/kg ideal body weight (iBW))/day and 0.78±0.01 g/kg iBW/day, respectively. In this model, 33% of females aged 71+ years did not meet the estimated average requirement for protein. Doubling dairy product consumption achieved current protein intake recommendations.

Conclusion

These data illustrate that increasing plant-based foods and reducing animal-based products could have unintended consequences on protein intake of older Americans. Doubling dairy product intake can help older adults get to an intake level of approximately 1.2 g/kg iBW/day, consistent with the growing consensus that older adults need to consume higher levels of protein for health.

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Figure 1
Figure 2

Abbreviations

U.S.:

United States

RDA:

Recommended Dietary Allowance

NHANES:

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

EAR:

Estimated Average Requirement

WWEIA:

What We Eat in America

NCI:

National Cancer Institute

DRI:

Dietary Reference Intake

USDA:

United States Department of Agriculture

BW:

body weight

iBW:

ideal body weight

aBW:

actual body weight

AMDR:

Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range

DGA:

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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Correspondence to Jenny A. Houchins.

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Houchins, J.A., Cifelli, C.J., Demmer, E. et al. Diet modeling in older Americans: The impact of increasing plant-based foods or dairy products on protein intake. J Nutr Health Aging 21, 673–680 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-016-0819-6

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Key words

  • Aging
  • muscle
  • protein
  • plant
  • dairy