Protein might help delay muscle decay in the elderly, a study published today suggests.
Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that eating a moderate amount of protein-rich food such as beef, fish, pork, chicken, dairy or nuts can slow down muscle loss.
Dr Douglas Paddon-Jones, the senior author of the study, said: "We wanted to know if there is some reason your grandmother's body, for example, can't stimulate muscle growth in response to eating the same protein-rich meal that you eat, which might over time contribute to muscle loss."
In fact, the researchers found that older people benefited as much as their younger peers from eating protein.
It is worrying, therefore, that between 16 and 27 per cent of elderly people are not getting their recommended daily allowance of the food group, Dr Paddon-Jones said.
He added that is was "disturbing" that a large proportion of physically fit older people had a very lean muscle mass compared to the younger participants in the study.
Dr Paddon-Jones suggested possible reasons for the elderly distaste for protein, including cost, difficulty chewing, limited menus in nursing homes or assisted living communities and decline in appetite.