Novel dietary protein formulations, skeletal muscle metabolism, and ageing
‘How do we age well?’ is a question at the forefront of modern society. With increasing life expectancy, the knock-on effect is a rapidly ageing population, and a consequent growing stress on healthcare systems. We now face a pressing issue of understanding not only how to live longer, but how we should age ‘better’ to ease the stress on healthcare systems.
With respect to ‘ageing better’, a key consideration is increased falls and incidence of disease occurs as we grow older, largely due to a decrease in the quantity and quality of muscle tissue we have (a slow process called sarcopenia). Importantly, we know that how well our muscles age is dependent on our lifestyle. For example, those older individuals who exercise more and eat slightly higher protein diets, retain more of their muscle tissue and function and, consequently, tend to lead healthier lives.
As a result, there are now accumulating calls for the government recommended daily allowances of protein for older adults to be increased. This introduces a critical question we and future generations are faced with: ‘where should this dietary protein to support healthy ageing come from?’
The majority of our scientific information relating to how the (ageing) human body and muscles handle protein has been taken from work using animal proteins. The carbon footprint, water consumption and land use involved in animal-derived dietary protein production represents a clamouring environmental concern at the forefront of current political and economic conversation concerning food security.
In this strand of our research we are addressing the efficacy of a variety of non-animal derived and sustainably produced alternative dietary proteins sources to support muscle mass maintenance in older adults. A particular emphasis is on how such protein sources could be used to support metabolism of the active older adult in striving to live ‘better’. The ultimate goal, therefore, is to assemble an evidence base for the support of science, industry and public health policy in tackling one of the most crucial questions posed in modern nutrition – to establish a more sustainable and healthy future for our ageing population.