Caring Currents

For Older Gals: Bring on the Meat. And the Fish, Tofu, and Eggs.

Last updated: May 12, 2008


Think “ fall prevention ” and what comes to mind? Walkers and canes, getting rid of easy-to-trip-on throw rugs, installing bathroom grab bars, maybe checking out senior exercise classes.

Add meat. (Lean, please.)  And eggs, chicken, tofu and nuts. Yep, protein. And make that plenty of it, especially for your mom.

As we age, we lose muscle mass, making us weaker and more prone to falling. Exercise and a balanced diet with ample protein, which builds muscle, help counter this effect.

But when looking closer at the relationship between protein and muscle, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Nottingham in England found that protein isn’t as helpful to elderly women as to men. This recent study showed that the muscle of older women didn't synthesize or utilize protein as efficiently as that of older men.

So what’s an old gal supposed to do? Get adequate protein, says Dr. Bettina Mittendorfer, a professor of medicine at Washington University and one of the study’s authors. A good supply of protein is especially important for older, post-menopausal women, she said.

What's enough protein?  Dr. Mittendorfer agrees with the government’s RDA or recommended daily allowance: 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds you weigh. Say what?   Translation: about 70 grams of protein daily for a 154-pound person, or 50 grams for a 100-pounder.  Helpful hint: protein is expressed in grams on food labels.  Here's a handy on-line food by food  protein counter .

Protein is actually pretty complictated stuff. But there's good information out there, including for seniors. Check:

Photo by Flickr user Wildcat Dunny under the creative commons attribution license.