Fighting sarcopenia in ageing European adults: The importance of the amount and source of dietary proteins

Diego Montiel-Rojas, Andreas Nilsson, Aurelia Santoro, Alberto Bazzocchi, Lisette C. P. G. M. De Groot, Edith J. M. Feskens, Agnes A. M. Berendsen, Dawid Madej, Joanna Kaluza, Barbara Pietruszka, Amy Jennings, Susan Fairweather-Tait, Giuseppe Battista, Miriam Capri, Claudio Franceschi, Fawzi Kadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


While an adequate protein intake is important for the maintenance of muscle mass during ageing, the amount and source of protein necessary for optimal prevention of sarcopenia remains to be determined. The present study aimed to investigate the influence of the amount and source of dietary proteins on sarcopenia risk in a cohort of 65–79-year-old European adults within the frame of the NU-AGE study. A total of 986 participants were included in the analysis. Skeletal muscle index (SMI), assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and handgrip strength (HG) were employed to create a continuous sex-specific sarcopenia risk score (SRS). Total amount together with animal-and plant-derived sources of proteins were obtained from a 7-day food record. Differences in SRS were analysed across groups of total protein intake (<0.8 g/body weight (BW); 0.8–<1.0 g/BW; 1.0–<1.2 g/BW; and ≥1.2 g/BW). The association between SRS and the different sources of protein was assessed using isocaloric substitution models adjusted by demographic, medical, and lifestyle factors. A significant linear dose-response relationship was observed, with a lower SRS linked to higher protein intakes. Based on the isocaloric substitution modelling, a reduced SRS was observed when increasing plant protein to the detriment of animal protein, while holding total protein intake constant. Further, this result remained significant after stratifying the analysis by adherence to different levels of protein intake. Our findings suggest that older adults may benefit from increasing protein intakes above current recommendations. Besides total amount, protein source should be considered when promoting health dietary habits in older adults for the prevention of sarcopenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3601
Issue number12
Early online date24 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Animal protein
  • Elderly
  • Isocaloric substitution
  • Macronutrients
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Muscle mass
  • Muscle strength
  • Physical activity
  • Plant protein

Cite this