Higher dietary protein intake is associated with sarcopenia in older British twins

Mary Ni Lochlainn (Lead Author), Ruth C. E. Bowyer, Ailsa A. Welch, Kevin Whelan, Claire J. Steves

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BACKGROUND: Sarcopenia, characterised by an accelerated loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, is associated with negative outcomes. This study aimed to evaluate factors associated with skeletal muscle strength, mass and sarcopenia, particularly protein intake, and to assess whether shared twin characteristics are important. METHODS: This study utilised cross-sectional data from a study of community-dwelling twins aged ≥60 years. Multivariable logistic regression and between- and within-twin pair regression modelling were used. RESULTS: Participants (n = 3,302) were 89% female (n = 2,923), aged a mean of 72.1 (±7.3) years and composed of 858 (55%) monozygotic, 709 (45%) dizygotic twin pairs and 168 individual lone twins. Using optimal protein intake as the reference group (1.0-1.3 g/kg/day), there was no significant association between protein intake (neither high nor low) and low muscle strength, or between low protein intake and sarcopenia (odds ratio (OR) 0.7; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.39-1.25; P = 0.229) in unadjusted models. High protein intake (>1.3 g/kg/day) was associated with low muscle mass (OR 1.76; 95% CI 1.39-2.24; P < 0.0001), while low protein intake was protective (OR 0.52; 95% CI 0.40-0.67; P < 0.0001). High protein intake was associated with sarcopenia (OR 2.04; 95% CI 1.21-3.44; P = 0.008), and this was robust to adjustment for demographic, anthropometric and dietary factors. The association between muscle strength and weight, body mass index, healthy eating index, protein intake and alpha diversity was not significantly influenced by shared twin factors, indicating greater amenability to interventions. CONCLUSIONS: High protein intake is associated with sarcopenia in a cohort of healthy older twins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberafad018
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number2
Early online date14 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • frailty
  • gut microbiome
  • muscle loss
  • older people
  • protein
  • sarcopenia

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