New Study Links Plant Protein to Healthier Muscle Mass in Seniors

A recent study by researchers from the University of Oregon revealed a potential link between plant protein and healthy muscle mass in senior adults. The research aimed to investigate how different dietary diets impact the physical health of senior citizens, including their musculoskeletal health. In addition, a similar study conducted by researchers in China reached the same conclusion. The studies were not connected to interrelated and were undertaken independently of one another.

If you are the adult child of a senior mother or father, you may want to discuss the potential benefits of increasing the amount of plant protein in your elderly parent’s diet. Through this article, we provide you with research data and some other information that can be helpful to you and your senior parent when it comes to plant protein and the potential for healthier muscle mass in older individuals.

Oregon Research Study General Results

The Oregon University study involved surveying 643 participants over the age of 60. All of the participants had to provide detailed information about their dietary habits. These included what type of food they ate, how often, and identifying sources from which participating seniors obtained protein. The participants were then divided into three groups based on their dietary choices:

  • Animal-based diet
  • Plant-based diet
  • Mix of both

Based on this data, researchers found that those seniors who followed a predominantly plant-based diet had significantly higher muscle mass than those who ate mostly animal-based proteins. Specifically, there was an 8 percent greater level of leg press strength in those with a predominantly plant-based diet than those with an animal-based diet. Additionally, there was a 5 percent greater level of grip strength in those with a plant-based diet than in animal-based diets.

Reasons for Enhancement of Muscle Health

Researchers believe this is because plant proteins have higher levels of essential amino acids needed for healthy muscles than animal proteins. Furthermore, certain plants like legumes contain compounds that may help reduce inflammation which can lead to breakdowns in muscle tissue over time.

In addition to the increased muscle mass found in seniors with a predominantly plant-based diet, there were other benefits, such as better overall energy levels. They also appear to have improved cognitive functioning. This could be because eating more fruits and vegetables is known to provide beneficial antioxidants that can help protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Additionally, whole grains have been found to improve cholesterol levels and control blood sugar levels, which can help prevent chronic diseases related to diabetes and heart disease.

Specific Examples of Plant Proteins That May Enhance Senior Muscle Mass

Different plants contain a variety of proteins. Some plants provide complete sources of protein that include all the essential amino acids required for optimal health. We present seven examples of plant proteins that can be included in a diet. These include options that you or your aging parent may not have considered in the past:

  1. Soy Protein: Soy is one of the most popular plant-based protein sources. It is a complete source that provides all nine essential amino acids, making it ideal for vegan and vegetarian diets. Soy protein can be consumed as tofu, tempeh, edamame, and miso. Additionally, soy protein powder can make shakes and smoothies with added nutrients like fiber and vitamins B6, B12, and D.
  2. Pea Protein: Pea protein comes from yellow split peas and is considered an excellent alternative to whey protein powder because it contains all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair. Pea protein is more easily digested than other plant-based proteins, making it a great choice for those who suffer from digestive issues or intolerance to certain foods. Additionally, pea protein can be blended into smoothies or used as an ingredient in baking recipes for added nutrition.
  3. Hemp Protein: Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and ten essential amino acids. Hemp seeds provide a concentrated source of plant-based protein plus other beneficial nutrients such as iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. Many people with experience in plant protein sources consider it a superfood. Hemp protein powder can also be added to smoothies or yogurt bowls to boost a senior’s day.
  4. Quinoa: A gluten-free grain with essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Quinoa also contained what nutritionists consider an impressive 9 grams of plant-based protein per cup. Its nutty flavor pairs well with vegetables or even salads. It truly is a highly versatile grain.
  5. Chia Seeds: Chia seeds may look small, but nutritionists specializing in senior health note that they pack a powerful punch. Chia seeds contain 2 grams of plant-based protein per tablespoon. They also contain healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation within our bodies. Omega 3 fatty acids also support cardiovascular health.
  6. Almonds: Almonds are considered one of the most nutrient-dense nuts. They provide 6 grams of plant-based proteins per ounce and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Additionally, almonds are rich in vitamin E. This vitamin helps protect cells from oxidation damage and supports healthy cell reproduction.
  7. Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds often need to be noticed. In reality, pumpkin seeds provide several benefits, including 5 grams of complete plant-based proteins per ounce. Furthermore, pumpkin seeds contain anti-inflammatory properties helping reduce joint pain associated with arthritis.

Comparison of Plant Protein Versus Animal Protein

Your senior mother or father will be more familiar is animal protein than plant protein. Indeed, considering the population of the United States, North Americans are generally significantly more familiar with animal protein than its plant-based counterpart. While the consumption of plant protein in Asia and some other countries has been common for generations, the same cannot be said in the United States.

Therefore, if you are interested in discussing plant protein and its seeming ability to enhance senior muscle mass with your elderly parent, you will need to be prepared to provide some basic information about the differences between the two available protein sources. Plant proteins and animal proteins each have their unique benefits and drawbacks, making them both valuable sources of nutrition. If you’re trying to decide which type of protein is right for you, it’s important to understand their differences.

We present five key distinctions between plant protein and animal protein for your consideration and consideration by your senior mother or father:

  1. Source: Plant proteins come from plant-based foods, such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, while animal proteins are sourced from animals like beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Plant proteins tend to be vegetarian or vegan-friendly, while animal proteins may not be suitable for certain diets.
  2. Amino Acid Profile: Amino acids are essential for building muscle and producing energy in your body. Animal proteins generally provide all nine essential amino acids your body needs but cannot produce independently. Meanwhile, plant-based proteins tend to be incomplete sources of amino acids because they lack one or more essential ones; this means it can be harder to meet your nutritional needs when relying solely on plant proteins.
  3. Nutrition: Animal proteins typically provide higher levels of certain nutrients such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins than plant proteins. However, many plant-based foods are also rich sources of vitamins and minerals. For example, nuts are high in healthy fats, and legumes contain fiber that helps with digestion.
  4. Digestibility: Animal proteins are easier for the human body to digest than plant proteins. This is because they have what is known as higher bioavailability rates. This means that our digestive systems can break animal proteins down more easily. As a result, we can get more nutrients from animal proteins. Plant-based foods, however, contain compounds called “phytochemicals.” These compounds work as natural detoxifiers in our bodies. There is evidence that phytochemicals could help reduce risks of certain diseases if consumed regularly alongside other nutritious food items.

In conclusion, before your senior parent makes any major dietary changes, your mother or father should consult with his or her primary care physician. A discussion needs to be had as to whether or not diet adjustments make sense from a global wellness perspective in consideration of the unique needs and state of health of your senior mother or father.